DEARBORN - Bridging interfaith relations, US Muslim and Jewish volunteers in the mid-western city of Detroit have joined hands to reach out to needy Americans on Christmas Day and offer their fellow Christians a better chance to enjoy festivities.
It's a real bonus. I like to be able to help other people, and I also get the chance to help people enjoy their holidays, Nancy Welber-Barr of West Bloomfield told Hometownlife.com on Friday, December 21.
It's a chance to give Christians a chance to celebrate without feeling like they have neglected their volunteering duties, Barr said.
Barr was referring to the anticipated event of Volunteer Day, which falls on the Jewish Mitzvah Month and is coordinated with Muslim groups.
Falling on the Jewish Mitzvah Month, the idea of the Christmas Day refers to Jewish obligation to help the needy.
It is our religious duty, Micki Grossman of Farmington Hills, a longtime Mitzvah Day volunteer, said.
It is a command that we live with and this is a great chance for the Jewish community to do good things and make a visible community effort in and around Detroit.
Mitzvah Day started with 200 volunteers. This year's group is at 800 with a wait list of over 80 people, Grossman said.
Bonding interfaith relations, Detroit Muslims stepped in four years ago to cooperate with their Jewish neighbors in Detroit to help the needy on Christmas day.
It is a show of goodwill and it also builds cooperation between the faiths, said Canton resident Muzammil Ahmed, the chairman of volunteers for the Michigan Muslim Community Council.
Working together across differing religious boundaries illustrates that we can appreciate each other's religions while still maintaining our own identity, the Canton resident added.
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Though there are no official figures, America is believed to be home to nearly eight million Muslims.
A 2010 report of the North American Jewish Data Bank puts the number of Jews in the US at around 6.5 million.
For many volunteers, the event offered them a chance to bond interfaith relations in their multi-faith American community.
I remember when I was volunteering a couple of years ago at an interfaith site and some of the Muslim women came up to me said they were interested in learning more about the Jewish tradition, Farmington Hills resident Janet Berman, co-chair of this year's event along with Hy Safran, said.
It was such a beautiful experience. Something really stuck me then about the power of working together. I thought, look what we have here.' It may be just a little tiny thing but it is a step in the right direction
The opportunity to work alongside others of different faiths for a common goal is very fulfilling, especially when children can see it. It instills a certain feeling inside that is heard to describe, she said.
Eighteen-year-old Sarah Waqhar of Canton agreed.
Volunteering on Mitzvah Day gives me a unique opportunity to meet people of different religions and bring smiles to their faces, Waqhar, a freshman at Eastern Michigan University.
For her, working with other faiths would help in breaking down any preconceived notions that people of different backgrounds cannot get along.
We live in America and we're made of up of so many different religions. The idea that we cannot come together and work alongside each other we're proving that wrong, she said.
When you set out to help someone, you don't ask them about their background or their faith and beliefs. You see a need and you fill it.
We are still one community as a whole, she added.
Ahmed said that Mitzvah Day is an event that he and his family look forward to all year long.
This is such a great event. No matter what your religion is, there is a festive air in December, he said.
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas it is hard not to get caught up in the holiday spirit.