Voice of the Jewish News: Magical impact of Mitzvah Day
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Voice of the Jewish News: Magical impact of Mitzvah Day

This week's editorial reflects on the annual day of Jewish-led social action, which this year saw thousands of bowls of chicken soup made

More than 1,000 portions of chicken soup were made at East London Mosque for Mitzvah Day 2018! Photo credit: Yakir Zur
More than 1,000 portions of chicken soup were made at East London Mosque for Mitzvah Day 2018! Photo credit: Yakir Zur

Ten years old this week, there can be few Jewish initiatives to have been embraced so quickly and so deeply into the fabric of society as Mitzvah Day, such that people of different faiths up and down the country now get involved without a second thought.

Year after year, this Jewish-led day of social action has the ability to bring people together. This year, Muslims and Jews donned their aprons
to cook 1,000 portions of chicken soup in a mosque, using halal meat and
a Jewish recipe, before delivery to the likes of Salvation Army and
St Mungo’s for homeless shelters.

Last year was no different. Few will forget when Muslims making Golders Green Hippodrome their new home came to a nearby synagogue to give blood, despite Jewish residents having earlier taken to online petitions in a swirl of ignorance and bigotry, calling for the mosque to be banned, shamefully blaming pollution.

These young Muslims’ good deed for Mitzvah Day quickly cut the bigots down to size and all was soon forgotten.

The way Mitzvah Day helps dissolve faith-based barriers and cultural aversions is one of its many qualities. Another is its international dimension. Together with Limmud, it must surely be one of Anglo-Jewry’s most important exports, today reaching countries such as the Philippines, Namibia, Belarus and South Africa.

That this simple yet long-sustained Jewish idea of helping others – whether it’s cleaning a cemetery or cooking for the homeless – can be so eagerly taken up around the world shows the world’s readiness to lend
a hand. It also shows the ability of faiths to embrace each other, despite
the headlines and Twitter trolls.

All this doesn’t just happen. It took hard work and help. Not long ago, Mitzvah Day comprised two part-timers renting a desk and broadband at Jewish social action incubator JHub. With backing from the Pears Foundation, guidance from Shoshana Boyd Gelfand and a dose of dogged persistence from Laura Marks, it thrived. More than 40,000 volunteers prove it.

Mitzvah Day has cemented its place among this generation’s lasting legacies, but the world – as we know – still needs a lot of repairing. To those who volunteer, and those who do the organising, we salute you.

Listen to this week’s episode of the Jewish Views Podcast!

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