If Prime Minister David Cameron is not busy this weekend, he could do worse than pop in to an unprecedented Great British Faith Cook-Off.
On Sunday, to mark Mitzvah Day 2015, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, will be joining forces to cook a three-course vegetarian meal destined to feed up to 30 homeless people.
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The two faith leaders, both said to be accomplished cooks, will be assisted in chopping and dicing by Labour MP Luciana Berger, one of many politicians across party lines who are supporting imaginative and creative Mitzvah Day initiatives.
Now in its tenth year, Mitzvah Day has become a firm fixture in the nation’s calendar, attracting volunteers from all faiths and none. In a message of support, the prime minister said: “Mitzvah Day has become a powerful movement for change, harnessing the enthusiasm of thousands of people who want to give their time to make a difference in their communities.
“It is remarkable that this year over 37,000 volunteers will support hundreds of causes, from transforming local community spaces to supporting elderly and vulnerable people. Everyone taking part in Mitzvah Day should be incredibly proud of what they will achieve together.”
He was echoed in his admiration by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. She said: “Interfaith discussions and the co-operation of faith groups, like the Jewish community, are essential in transforming lives and building a stronger, fairer and equal country. Mitzvah Day is an excellent example of how people from all walks of life come together and show how easy it is to put Jewish values into action for the benefit of all communities”.
Among the hundreds of projects taking place under the Mitzvah Day umbrella is a cook-in by a group of Jewish and Muslim teachers at JW3, the Jewish community centre for London; Kisharon and Norwood teaming up for a charity football match; Jewish and Muslim students in York giving blood side-by-side; Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner helping out at a farm with young media professionals, and a young boy who is making his barmitzvah into a Bar Mitzvah Day by asking guests to bring presents for an autism charity.
At the JW3 event, the group of 20 made a meal of lentil soup, vegetable biryani, chapatis, salad and apple crumble. The food was taken to Ashford Place, a resource centre in Cricklewood which provides advice and support on issues including homelessness, training, employment and health.
Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue becomes a Mitzvah Day hub on Sunday to discuss the issue of refugees, act as a drop-off point for donations from local churches and mosques and host talks from Holocaust survivors and Kindertransport refugees.
Politicians taking part in Mitzvah Day events include Labour MPs Sadiq Khan, Keir Starmer, Tulip Siddiq and Luciana Berger, Conservative peer Baroness Williams of Trafford, who is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Liberal Democrat the Lord Verjee CBE.
MPs from all parties united in a Mitzvah Day event at the House of Commons earlier this month, writing thank you cards to staff at various charities.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who took part, said: “Mitzvah Day is a model for social action. It reflects the values that Liberals hold dear, bringing people together to make a difference to their local communities.”