Jewish community fills shoes on Christmas | Dunwoody News

DUNWOODY, Ga. — While many Americans gather with their families on Christmas Day, some are not fortunate enough to have the holiday off from work. 

While most community members haven’t the training to be a medical doctor or police officer, some are able to fill in for non-medical healthcare workers.

In the spirit of the season, members of B’nai B’rith International and the Jewish community replaced Christian workers in hospitals, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, allowing them to spend the day with their families. 

From left, Ian Hurewitz, Harry Lutz, Sherri Adair and Rae Sirott volunteer at Dunwoody Place in Atlanta on Christmas Day. Over 200 members of the Jewish community in Metro Atlanta participated in the 2023 Pinch Hitter program. 

AMY HUREWITZ/PROVIDED

On Christmas Day 2023, more than 200 members of the Metro Atlanta Jewish community volunteered at Historic Roswell Place; William Breman Jewish Home in Atlanta; Celebration Village Forsyth; Berman Commons in Dunwoody; Dunwoody Place in Atlanta; Somerby of Sandy Springs; and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Decatur.

The Achim and Gate City Lodge, the local chapter of B’nai B’rith International, organizes the annual event.

German Jews immigrating to New York City founded B’nai B’rith in 1843. Achim and Gate City, established in 1870, is one of the oldest B’nai B’rith lodges in the country. 

From left, Matt Green, Rae Sirott, David & Tova Goldschmidt, Kat-I van Morblue and Harry Lutz serve the assisted-living facility at Dunwoody Place in Atlanta on Christmas Day. The annual volunteer program is designed to allow non-medical healthcare workers to celebrate Christmas with their families. 

AMY HUREWITZ/PROVIDED

Gary Jackson, a member of the Achim and Gate City Lodge of B’nai B’rith, co-founded the Pinch Hitter program in 1980. 

“Anything we can do to help out in the community,” Jackson said. “Nobody should have to work on Christmas Day, I mean my goodness.”

He said the program began with 32 volunteers at Children’s Scottish Rite Hospital.

Since Christmas Day fell on Shabbat in 1981, the program went on a hiatus. Jackson said the program started to volunteer time on Fridays for years when the two holidays conflict.

Jackson served as chairman of the program for over a decade and led the effort to expand the its reach. 

President George H.W. Bush awarded the Pinch Hitter program with the 335th Presidential Point of Light Service Award on Christmas Day in 1990. During his administration, President Bush recognized more than 1,000 volunteers as “points of light.”

The Points of Light Foundation was created as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in 1991. It will hold the Points of Light Conference June 11-14 in Houston.

Harry Lutz has served as chairman of the Pinch Hitter program since 2000. 

“Harry is just unbelievable,” Jackson said. “Rosanne [Lutz] does a tremendous amount of work as well, they’re a wonderful couple.”

Stan Sloan leads a game of hangman at Berman Commons in Dunwoody on Christmas Day. The assisted-living facility was one of seven medical centers and senior living communities served by the 2023 Pinch Hitter program. 

AMY HUREWITZ/PROVIDED

Harry Lutz traveled to every location to ensure things were running smoothly on Christmas Day. 

After serving as chairman for two years in the mid-1990s, Lutz said he returned to lead the program, which was struggling at the time. He said he hopes to train someone to fill his role as chairman of the program. 

Amy and Ian Hurewitz, Lutz’s daughter and grandson, tagged along with him and took photos of volunteers at each location.

Lutz said spending time with his daughter and grandson made the day especially memorable. 

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