Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A belief in serving the less fortunate

Synagogue members volunteer at church's Christmas dinner

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Most of the volunteers celebrate Hanukkah, but that didn't stop them from serving a Christmas dinner Tuesday at the West Broadway Community Ministry.

Members of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue served a special Christmas meal of chicken pot pie, potato salad, coleslaw and dessert to about 200 people from the West Broadway community. All the food was bought at cost or donated by local restaurants such as Salisbury House, Rae and Jerry's, Viscount Gort and Gunn's Bakery.

"A longing for world peace and justice for everyone is common to Christian and Jewish faiths and other faiths as well," said community minister Lynda Trono.

"Christmas is a time when Christians celebrate and hope for such things. Inviting people to share in that is just a really neat thing, and it's happening here."

Karen Yamron-Shpeller and her daughter, Laia Shpeller, 12, were among the Jewish volunteers prepping and serving food, handing out toys and cleaning up afterwards. They said volunteering at a Christmas dinner was an opportunity for them to give back and at a convenient time.

"Christmas is such a busy time of year for a lot of people and it's such a quiet time of year for us that we decided we should come and help out," said Yamron-Shpeller.

"I'm fortunate, in that I can just open the cupboard and grab something to eat," said Laia. "That's not the case for many of the people here today. We have the time right now, so we thought, why not come help?"

A volunteer and member of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, Barb Kowall finds satisfaction in helping to make Christmas a little brighter for others, regardless of people's religious beliefs or cultural background.

"We don't really know the backgrounds of the people we're serving a meal to. It's a multi-faith dinner. It's a Christian church, Jewish synagogue and everybody else all coming together."

Chris Linden, a volunteer at West Broadway and a Christian, stands at the front of the room and smiles as he looks around at everyone eating, laughing and talking.

"Everybody has their own holidays, and Christmas is a time for everyone to come together and show compassion. The fact that there are Jewish volunteers giving to those of a different faith reiterates this for me," he said.

As Laia walks around the room handing out donated new toys to children, she makes it clear that it's not just her family or Jewish people volunteering on Christmas Day.

"There are lots of people out there volunteering. It's definitely not just Jewish people that find time on Christmas."

Laia is also eager talk about the best part of her day volunteering at West Broadway.

"Everyone walked in here looking not so happy, especially the children, but now they are all smiling. Seeing that feels really good -- like we made a difference."

meghan.franklin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 26, 2012 A11

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