Jews and the Christmas Mitzvah Day

Two for Tuesday: The Christmas Mitzvah Day

Happy #GivingTuesday! Developed in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations foundation, Giving Tuesday is a global day (the first Tuesday in December) dedicated to giving back in the midst of the heavily commercialized holiday season. However, another December day is rapidly gaining popularity as a day of service: Christmas.

For American Jews, Christmas is often seen as an empty day, since people don’t have to go to work or school, stores are closed and a majority of people are celebrating the holiday with loved ones. While there are restaurants to go to or a new Christmas blockbuster to see, some Jewish families find it unsatisfying to unproductively spend Christmas in this stereotypical way. This has created the opportunity for a new ritual appearing throughout Jewish communities across America: the Christmas Mitzvah Day. This is an event in which Jews spend Christmas participating in a variety of organized service projects for a productive day of social activism.

The origins of the Mitzvah Day in Judaism are rooted in the concept of tikkun olam, which has a variety of meanings, including “healing,” “mending,” “repairing the world” and “improving society.” Since the 1950s, American Jews have incorporated tikkun olam into their practices, beginning with “social action days” in which the congregation would reach out to needy people beyond the synagogue. However, it wasn’t until later that this “social action day” became “Mitzvah Day.” Mitzvah can be translated into “commandment,” and as giving back became more a part of everyday life, days of social service became known as Mitzvah Days.

In the spirit of giving and Two for Tuesday, here are two examples of Christmas Mitzvah Days opportunities in Chicago.


Winter Break Pantry Push

The Winter Break Pantry Push, promoted by the Jewish United Fund and the Jewish Federation of  Metropolitan Chicago, is part of the Joyfully Jewish program for families. On Christmas Day, families can help sort and shelve items The ARK’s Rhea Segal Food Pantry. The ARK provides free social and medical services to assist members of the Chicagoland Jewish community that need help becoming self-sufficient.


Inspiration Café Christmas Dinner

On Christmas Day, Jews can volunteer to cook and serve dinner at the meal center for the Inspiration Corporation, the Inspiration Café. The Inspiration Corporation helps individuals affected by homelessness and poverty by providing social services, employment training and placement and housing. The Christmas Dinner volunteers are provided the Jewish United Fun Tikkun Olam Volunteer Network as part of the Mitzvah Mania program to increase service activity during the holiday season.

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[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jenny is a Junior Executive at SJG. She earned her BA in Psychology and a minor in Educational Studies in 2014 from Colgate University. Outside the office, Jenny loves to travel (usually to Disney World), bake and watch copious amounts of TLC.[/author_info] [/author]