Jews Keep Sacramento First Responders Fed on Christmas

Beth Shalom - Modesto (
Beth Shalom - Modesto (

A Jewish congregation in California has made it a holiday tradition to bring Christmas to first responders who are working to serve and protect their community, and who cannot celebrate the holiday with their loved ones. For seven years, Temple Beth Shalom in Modesto has been cooking homemade kosher meals and delivering them to first responders on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) and “Gemilut Hasadim” (acts of kindness) are two of the driving forces behind congregation vice president Joyce Gandelman’s motivation to carry out this wonderful deed, according to the Sacramento Fox affiliate. She was one of the people to start the Christmas volunteer effort along with her congregation in 2008.

“They’re always so glad to see us come,” volunteer Gary Kailes told Fox 40. Kailes has been volunteering with Temple Beth Shalom on Christmas for the past six years. He explained that the holidays can be very busy for those who serve and protect the community. “This is a nice break for them.”

The Jewish volunteers bring food to first responders who are working at the downtown jail, the safety center, and other agencies. They will reportedly be cooking 300 meals this year. All the ingredients used, including turkeys, are kosher, meaning that they observe Jewish dietary laws, such as separating meat and dairy and avoiding certain animals.

In a 2008 interview with the Modesto Bee, Gandelman had explained, “What do Jews usually do on Christmas Eve? We go out for Chinese food and go to the movies. Or we work so our Christian friends can have the day off. We’re really trying at the synagogue to do more mitzvah projects–good deeds–in the community. That’s one of our board’s goals.”

Beth Shalom will be serving hot meals to first responders on Thursday between 1 and 6 p.m.

Image: Congregation Beth Shalom

Adelle Nazarian is on Twitter @AdelleNaz