In a city where the streets and sidewalks were mostly empty on Christmas Day, D.C's Jewish Community Center, on 16th Street, NW, was a beehive of volunteer activity.
Boxes and bags of donated clothing were being organized and sorted in one room -- distribution will come later.
Kids and parents together were making handmade Christmas Cards in the library (for delivery later in the day to families getting goodies). Eleven-year-old Sydney White was among the kids making cards. For Sydney, working on December 25th is an all-day affair. "Oh, we're going to volunteer at the nursing home, after this," Sydney told us. When we asked why her family will visit a nursing home, the eleven-year-old replied, "Because we want to bring people happiness."
Scores of people were donating at the blood drive at the Jewish Community Center. Others were signing up (and giving DNA swabs) to see if they're a match to donate bone marrow for very seriously ill people.
A thousand people signed up at the JCC to volunteer on Christmas Day. Why such an organized effort on the day celebrated for the birth of Jesus? Erica Steen, the outreach coordinator for the Jewish Community Center explained: "Well, look, it's not our holiday. So, why not bring cheer to those that do celebrate." Steen also pointed out: some of the Christmas Day volunteers at the JCC are not Jewish.
Naa-Oboshie Reindorf is black, and she confirmed that she is not Jewish. She was delivering several bags of goodies from the JCC to to immigrant families in D.C., as she has done for the last several Christmases. Ms. Reindorf said the recipient families, in previous years, have told her they feel lonely during the holidays, so, "this is a good way to spread some cheer and give some love on Christmas Day."
Several dozen young Muslims (organized by two different youth groups) were delivering food and clothing to D.C.'s Central Kitchen. Why do this on Christmas Day? Saim Zaidi explained,
"We strongly believe that a lot of brethren throughout society (who are mostly Christian) should take this day off, and enjoy it with their family. They shouldn't have to be here. So we decided to come out and brave the cold, while they enjoy the holiday with their families."
Zaidi also reminded us that, while Muslims do not believe in the divinity of Christ, they do believe Jesus was a prophet who brought messages from God.