Montco Kindnesses Past: Tradition Sees Multi-Faith Volunteers Taking Christians’ Dec. 25 Work Shifts

large industrial kitchen dishwasher and sink all stainless steel
Jews and Muslims have been volunteering for years to take the job duties of Christian workers, ensuring they have a Christmas Day spent with friends and family.

A local charitable program that had Jewish volunteers work on Christmas day so Christians can spend the day at home was a resounding success since its inception in the late 1960s. Lou Perfido updated a 1987 Philadelphia Inquirer article about the practice in a 2019 edition.

The local idea was formulated at Holy Redeemer Hospital in Huntingdon Valley and eventually spread across Philadelphia and the entire country.

One of the initiators of the program was Rowland Rosenfeld, a member of Keneseth Israel synagogue in Elkins Park.

In 1967, he was looking for mitzvah ideas — good-deed projects — and found one thanks to Maxwell Fried, the manager of his apartment complex and former president of his B’nai B’rith lodge.

Fried worked in the restaurant industry at the time and volunteered on Christmas in the Abington Memorial Hospital kitchen.

“We thought it was a terrific idea,” said Rosenfeld.

Over the following years, Rosenfeld pitched the idea first to the Delaware Federation of Reformed Temple Brotherhoods and then the National Federation of Reformed Temple Brotherhoods.

Within five years, not only hospitals in Montgomery County but all across the nation became beneficiaries of the volunteer program.

Nationwide, the practice still occurs, and its corps of volunteers now comes from faiths that include Muslims and other non-Christian sects. A Dec. 2012 article in the Jewish Journal chronicled Jewish volunteers substituting for homeless meal servers, building cleaners, and even sitting in for Santa.

Read more about the charitable program at The Philadelphia Inquirer.


Editor’s Note: This post originally ran in MONTCO.Today on Dec. 19, 2019; it has been updated since.

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