Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Holiday Tradition Transcends Faiths

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Holiday Tradition Transcends Faiths

Article excerpt

The enjoyment of the Christmas holiday will be heightened for Christian volunteers as members of another faith continue their own tradition.

To allow Our Daily Bread volunteers to stay home and enjoy family, presents and their own Christmas dinners, about a dozen Jewish members of Congregation Ner Tamid will serve those in need at the soup kitchen.

Now retired, Salli Eisenberg said she always volunteered to work on Christmas in her former job at Gevity.

"I strongly believe that Easter and Christmas and Thanksgiving are for the family," she said. "If you can do something so that a non-Jew can enjoy it with his family, then that's a mitzvah, that's a good deed."

Eisenberg brought along a neighbor and they served on Easter, dishing up potatoes and green bean casserole. This will be their first Christmas doing whatever is asked and receiving heartfelt thanks in return.

"It was the people getting served that really appreciated it," she said. "Everyone was saying thank you so much. It gave me such a good feeling to know I was doing something helpful for the community and for my congregation."

Kitchen manager Penny Goethe said she anticipates serving more than 300 meals to families.

Assisting in the effort will be Elaine Mittler, a Ner Tamid member, and her daughter, Rhonda, of St. Petersburg.

"I don't know what Christmas Day would be like if I wasn't doing it," said Rhonda Mittler, who has driven to Bradenton to help for 14 years.

She is being joined this year by a friend from Oldsmar who will relish the appreciation from those who could use a smile, cold glass of water and Christmas greeting. That she gives others a chance to enjoy a day off helps, too, she said.

"Being part of this on an annual basis makes me feel like I'm part of something," she said. "It gives a chance for the Catholics to spend time with their families and for us to do what I feel is a comfortable thing. …

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