MODESTO -- Lasagna is on the menu this year for any first responders working Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. For the fifth year, Congregation Beth Shalom members will serve complimentary meals to police, sheriff, fire and ambulance personnel.
Because Jews do not celebrate Christmas, they instead offer this service to the community, said CBS member Joyce Gandelman.
"I think that first responders are sometimes forgotten," she said.
"We want to give back to them and thank them for keeping us safe throughout the year. While it's not turkey, it's a home-cooked meal that we do with love and gratitude."
CBS will serve the meals from 6 to 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve and from noon to 6 p.m. on Christmas Day. First responders are welcome to drop in any time during those hours. They also can pick up meals to go; large to-go orders can be reserved by calling (209) 571-6072 or (209) 613-9889.
And for those who can't leave work, such as employees at the jail, honor farm, safety center and dispatch center, CBS will deliver the meals. They also deliver meals to home-bound seniors about 30 of them last year who don't have family to care for them.
Gandelman said CBS members prepare and cook the meals, but several area businesses have donated a variety of bread or other ingredients for the dinners, including Red Lobster, Chefs of New York, Vito's, Bella Italia and Cost Less Food.
If anyone else wants to contribute, she said, financial donations can be sent to the synagogue.
She said the CBS eating area is still decorated with giant snowflakes from the recent Latkes and Vodkas event during Hanukkah and the mood is cheerful as the men and women on duty stop by for a meal.
"(Stanislaus County Sheriff) Adam Christianson was out working on Christmas Day last year," Gandelman said. "He showed up with his son to say hello to everyone, which was nice."
Congregation Beth Shalom is at 1705 Sherwood Ave., near Granger and McHenry avenues and just north of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. For more information, call (209) 571-6072.