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Jews, Muslims Volunteer on Christmas, Give Christians a Break

This year's Mitzvah Day is so popular that there is a wait list for volunteers.

Mitzvah Day is when hundreds of volunteers from metro Detroit pitch in to make Christmas a brighter day for their neighbors and community members.

Organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council, Mitzvah Day started about 20 years ago, said co-chairwoman Micki Grossman, of Farmington Hills. 

She said it started with the idea of volunteering around the community every month at places like nursing homes and hospitals.

"Then someone came up with the idea that on Christmas Day, as Jewish people, we don't have anything to do," said Grossman, who has been co-chairwoman of Mitzvah Day for six years, and before that a volunteer and site coordinator.

Mitzvah literally means commandment, so volunteers see this as a way to fulfill their obligation to the community.

"We can go out into the community and assist so that people who do practice Christmas can get a few hours off," she said.

Mitzvah Day started with 200 volunteers. This year's group is at 800 with a wait list of over 80 people, Grossman said.

"About three years ago we invited the Muslim community to participate, because they don't celebrate Christmas either," she said.

Mitzvah Day volunteers visit communities all over southeast Michigan to deliver toys to families, help package food with local food banks, serve food with the Salvation Army, and visit with senior citizens.

Although all spots are filled this year, those interested can go to the Mitzvah Day website to sign up for a reminder of when registration will open for next year's Mitzvah Day.

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