Jews and Muslims spend Christmas serving others

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CREVE COEUR, MO (KTVI)-- Hundreds of Jewish and Muslim families gathered on Christmas morning, like they do every year, even though they do not celebrate the Christian holiday.  It was time for the third-annual Jewish and Muslim Day of Service.

"This year, we think we are going to have over 700 volunteers,” said Jewish event co-chair Roberta Gutwein.

All faiths -- and all hands -- were on deck at the Jewish Community Center in Creve Coeur.  This massive, annual, area-wide volunteer effort had a humble beginning on Christmas 2009, with a handful of volunteers who refused to let a few snowflakes interrupt their mission.

"A few Jewish and Muslim families decided to get together to volunteer on Christmas Day.  It was a huge snowstorm,” Gutwein explained.  “They thought no one would show up.  All the families showed up."

Just like from day one, the kids joined this army ready to help organizations like Crisis Nursery, and first responders in St. Louis City and County.

"We're making baby blankets, we're delivering cookies to the police and fire stations,”Gutwein smiled.  “Just a wide variety of jobs."

In a world filled with stories of deadly religious and political clashes overseas, organizers saw hope in the room where children of all faiths worked feverishly to make greeting cards for cancer patients.

"I am really hopeful,” said Muslim co-chair Zubaida Ibrahim.  “I see a bright future, because we see so many kids out here and they're learning.  They're learning to help.  They're learning from their peers."

In her three years volunteering with the event, she has also seen Christians celebrate the holiday – not at home – but on the streets helping others.

"There are lots of Muslims here.  There are lots of Christians and Jews here.  Nobody's thinking, ‘Who's Who?’  They're all friends here,” she looked at the families.  “I made more friends doing this event than I have before."

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