Mitzvah Day’s founder has revealed she avoided approaching the United Synagogue (U.S.) when searching for support for the venture, writes Jack Mendel at Limmud. 

Speaking on Sunday at a Limmud session about cross-communalism, Laura Marks, who established the day of Jewish social action in 2008, said its success within the U.S. was “because we didn’t ask them”.

She told Jewish News: “I was determined this should work across the community. I didn’t ask the U.S. for permission partly because they might have said no to a cross communal venture like this one if asked before Mitzvah Day was even off the ground.  

Also of course, Mitzvah Day works bottom up. I know  that people are much more excited about ideas which start locally and grow than ideas which people feel are imposed.  In this case both factors came into play.”

Marks outlined that she approached individual members of the Orthodox community to build support for the project. Since creating the day, it has gone international, and is now endorsed across the community, including by the Chief Rabbi and United Synagogue.

Doreen Samuels, a U.S. Trustee, who spoke alongside Marks on the panel said: “There are major halachic issues working cross-communally”.

Speaking to the Jewish News, Doreen said: “Those of us who wanted to be involved just got on and did so without asking permission. That way we create facts on the ground and it becomes de facto ‘what we do’.”

The panel ‘United We Stand – can British Jews ever come together except by leaving God at the door?’ was chaired by JW3’s Chief, Raymond Simonson, and included Michelle Janes, of Masorti Judaism.