Laura Marks and Julie Siddiqui

Laura Marks and Julie Siddiqui launching Nisha-Nashim

A new initiative bringing together Jewish and Muslim women for projects helping wider society was launched last week.

Nisa-Nashim, which means women in Hebrew and Arabic, has already spawned projects including interfaith cookery for asylum seekers and Come Dine with me-style dinner parties. Organisers also plan to collaborate with the Separated Child Foundation and Mitzvah Day to support refugees.

The network is backed by the Department for Communities and local Government, whose permanent secretary Melanie Dawes addressed the launch at the Islamia Girls School in Queens Park.

Congratulating founders Laura Marks and Julie Siddiqui, She  said: I’m a passionate believer in the power of women’s networks and one of my priorities as Gender Champion is to rejuvenate and support gender and women’s networks across the Civil Service. By tapping the ideas, passion and knowledge of people who work there, effective networks can help both to create change in organisations, and support leaders and managers in implementing it.”

Three pupils from the school spoke about their hopes for the future while Muslim storyteller Jumana Moon told a Jewish folk story.

Ahead of the event, Baroness Williams, parliamentary under-secretary at the DCLG, highlighted the value placed by both communities on family, education and achievement in employment.

She said: “I think [interfaith initiatives] are always important, but obviously now it is a good time – in terms of diffusing some of those tensions for people who share common values together.”

Given the current escalation of violence in the Middle East, Julie Siddiqi said: “The timing makes this more important, not less – it encourages and motivates us more.”  Laura Marks added: “We need to show that that Jews and Muslims have more in common than that which drives us apart.   Women are genuinely looking for ways to engage with one another and reach out to do something.  Nisa-Nashim gives us permission and confidence.”