700 Jewish volunteers turn out to do good deeds on Christmas in W.Pa.

| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 10:22 p.m.

Naida Kanter spent a couple of hours on Tuesday making peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill to feed children who otherwise might not have enough to eat.

“The Jewish tradition is to help others,” said Kanter, 69, of Monroeville. “That's what a mitzvah is: to do a good deed.”

About 700 volunteers of the Jewish faith spread out across 70 sites in Allegheny County and into Washington County for the annual Mitzvah Day of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, helping thousands in Western Pennsylvania.

Activities included visiting the elderly, delivering gifts to hospital patients, helping animals and preparing items for local food pantries.

“Growing up Jewish, you're going to go to the movies and eat Chinese food” on Christmas Day, said Jenny Jones, the federation's volunteer center coordinator. “To give 700 people the opportunity and the experience to give back to the community is priceless.”

“We do this to make HaShem (God) happy,” said Rachel Leah Davis, 67, of Jerusalem, who was visiting her parents, Bob, 91, and Phyllis Davis, 88, of Squirrel Hill. “He would be jumping up and down.”

The Davises also made sandwiches that were distributed to Light of Life Rescue Mission in the North Side and other agencies that help needy children. Many families participated in the events, with parents saying that volunteering would reinforce the spirit of doing good to pass onto generations to come.

Across the hall from the sandwich-making, people picked up needles, thread and socks to make sock monkeys for patients in Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville

“It builds character,” said Yaakov Kamensky, 16, a 10th-grader at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh in Squirrel Hill. “You're helping kids out, making kids happy.”

Volunteers cooked and served up ham, corn pudding, hash browns and other fixings at the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, giving those who are homeless or alone for the holiday the chance to enjoy a hot meal.

“It's wonderful that they would take time out of their own lives to volunteer and help people, no matter who they are,” Homestead Mayor Betty Esper said.

As he ate a plate of waffles, Mike Kraly, 53, of Homestead said, “I appreciate what people do for people who have nothing. They're making sure people have a good day for the holiday.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5621or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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