JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While most people woke up on Christmas surrounded by family, some in Jacksonville’s Jewish community spent the day working so others could spend time with their loved ones.
Volunteers gathered at Congregation Ahavath Chesed on San Jose Boulevard, also known as The Temple, to bake cookies for first responders and prepare meals for seniors as part of an annual tradition they call Mitzvah Meals.
“The Jewish community throughout Jacksonville does acts of loving kindness on Christmas Day and throughout the year,” said Goldie Lansky, executive director of Congregation Ahavath Chesed.
These acts of kindness, known as mitzvahs in Hebrew, are good deeds performed voluntarily by those of the Jewish faith out of both a sense of religious duty and the goodness of their hearts.
In this case, it’s a joint project between The Temple and the Jacksonville Jewish Center.
Volunteers prepared a total of 68 trays of freshly-baked cookies to be delivered to law enforcement agencies and fire departments throughout Duval and St. Johns counties, Lansky said.
She described the occasion as a way of saying "thanks to the officers and firefighters who do amazing things every day."
They also prepared and delivered more than 500 meals to recipients of the Meals on Wheels program run by Aging True Community Senior Services, so that senior group’s volunteers can take the day off.
“They are usually people for whom life is tough,” Lansky said of the meals’ recipients. “They are often alone today and while it is difficult to be alone any day, on a holiday it is that much harder to be alone.”
Lansky said the day of volunteerism and service goes a long way for everyone involved.
“As so often is the case, the volunteer gets as much, if not more, from the recipient of volunteer services.”