Dec. 25 day of service can lead to more than good deeds



Photos by Lloyd Wolf

Thirty-five years ago on Christmas Day, Jill Orbuch met her future husband, David, at a day of service in the Washington area planned by two dozen young Jews.

What began in 1987 with 120 volunteers this year drew more than 500 Jews who contributed to 35 community service projects on Christmas Day.

The activities at D25, sponsored by the Edlavitch D.C. Jewish community Center, included dressing up like Santa, singing carols, throwing holiday parties, serving meals at shelters and nursing homes, cooking, delivering food, wrapping gifts for families and donating blood.

Back in 1987, Jill Orbuch was coordinator of singles events for what is now the Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia. She said it was refreshing to go to a singles event that she didn’t have to plan.

David Orbuch, then a federal prosecutor and member of Ohr Kodesh Congregation, remembers the moment when their stars crossed.

“I was at a shelter washing dishes at the end of the day,” he said, “and a beautiful woman came up behind me and said, ‘Can I help you clean those pans?’ That was our first meeting.”

Jill Orbuch, now 63, said she connected not only to David, but to the purpose of the day. “We volunteered at the shelters so people would be able to celebrate Christmas with their families.”

David Orbuch, now 61, said, “It was a way for us to meet new people who are all connected to doing good work.

The Orbuchs moved to Minneapolis in 1994. Married 32 years, the Orbuchs continue to volunteer on Christmas Day in the Twin Cities.

Elana, 29, one of their three daughters, returned to the District and carries on the family Christmas tradition.

“The fact that [my parents] were doing it in the 1980s and that I’m doing it today is a really beautiful cyclical moment and I really love that,” said Elana Orbuch, who is a D.C. Superior Court law clerk and a member of the New Synagogue Project in D.C.

“It’s great that the program still exists and that it still serves a good purpose,” David Orbuch said. “Generation to generation, your actions can be learned by your children. That’s important that they saw what we did ourselves, and now they’re living their lives and that’s important to them.”

And if that wasn’t enough of a familial connection, Elana Orbuch’s partner, Mira Smith, organizes the D25 event as the assistant director for the Edlavitch DCJCC Morris Cafritz Center for Social Responsibility.

“Organizations really appreciate it and were really excited this year about us coming back in full force after the pandemic,” Smith, 31, said before the holiday.

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