Modesto First Responders Treated to Christmas Eve Dinner by Jewish Congregation

MODESTO – Though they are often kept away from their families while keeping the Modesto community safe, Monday night, first responders were treated to a warm Christmas Eve dinner thanks to Congregation Beth Shalom.

FOX40 rode along with the volunteers who shared how this Jewish community is spreading holiday cheer.

The night before Christmas, with arms full of holidays treats, first responders were visited, not by Saint Nick, but the Jewish community.

“Thank you, for working tonight,” a volunteer said to first responders. “The Jewish Santa and elves have arrived,” she said.

Elves who came bearing gifts of lasagna, brownies and dinner rolls.

“This isn’t my holiday, so we want to make it special for those people who can’t be with their families and celebrate this time of year,” said volunteer Merlene Lombardo.

With homemade cookies and homemade meals, the entire dinner was made possible through donations.

The good cheer is all thanks to Congregation Beth Shalom.

“As Jews, one of the things we’re supposed to do is acts of love and kindness,” organizer Joyce Gandelman said.

For the past 11 years, the congregation has offered their temple and kindness to officers, paramedics, and people who protect the community on December 24th and 25th.

“the first responders do so much for us year-round,” Lombardo stated.

For Lombardo, the dinner is another way of breaking down barriers.

“My dad was actually a holocaust survivor and my dad never wanted us to go out and show any symbolism or tell anybody that we were Jewish,” Lombardo explained. “I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m like proud and not scared.”

A simple gesture to show the next generation how different communities can work together.

“This is only my first year,” said volunteer Austin Spieller. “’Cause if one cannot help another then it might not survive. It’s basically by like what is this… symbiotic relationship.”

Congregation Beth Shalom will once again open their temple to first responders tomorrow on Christmas day.

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