London synagogue initiatives attract the votes of politicians

November 24, 2011
Can you dig it? Daniel Glazer,  Hannah Weisfeld and Michal Caplan hard at work at the Kentish Town City Farm

Can you dig it? Daniel Glazer, Hannah Weisfeld and Michal Caplan hard at work at the Kentish Town City Farm

Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone joined Muswell Hill teenagers clearing litter from Cherry Tree Wood as part of a Mitzvah Day venture. The Hornsey and Wood Green MP said she "really enjoyed the good clear up, with some spring bulb planting to top it off. I am always excited to join the local synagogue for this wonderful day of community action. It's heartwarming and fun."

Another supportive MP was Harrow East's Bob Blackman, who helped serve tea to Ajex members at Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue. The guests had just returned from the annual Ajex parade.

Congregants also made food collections for the homeless and cleaned up the Watford New Hope Trust's market garden. Recipients of cards produced by Stanmore children included local policemen injured in a stabbling attack.

The baking of 400 biscuits for distribution to local families was part of a varied programme cooked up by Edgware Synagogue organisers.

Cheder pupils collected a carload of food and toiletries from local shoppers for the Gift charity. They also examined hundreds of bookrests in the main shul to identify those in need of repair and helped to clear away hundreds of old prayer books.

Akiva Primary School pupils in Finchley catering in bulk for their Mitzvah Day activities, including a tea for the elderly

Akiva Primary School pupils in Finchley catering in bulk for their Mitzvah Day activities, including a tea for the elderly

Langdon College volunteers were on hand to assist with the packing and clearing - and some painting around the synagogue buildings. Musicians from the congregation entertained residents of Rela Goldhill Lodge to complete what Rabbi David Lister said was the Edgware shul's "best ever" Mitzvah Day contribution.

Putting it in numbers, Golders Green Synagogue calculated its Mitzvah Day tally as two blankets, 12 crates of food, 43 bags of clothing and 100-plus volunteers.

The blankets from a "knitathon" and the winter apparel were for World Jewish Relief clients. The food collected outside Sainsbury's benefited Cricklewood Homeless Concern. Young community members took the endeavour farther afield by volunteering at a Stamford Hill soup kitchen.

Events co-ordinator Joel Clark said it was "fantastic to see so many members of our community, across all ages, coming together to do something that made a real difference".

Mitzvah Day helped St Albans Masorti members towards their pledge of committing 21 hours of their time to voluntary work in celebration of the community's 21st anniversary.

Among nine projects were a "collectathon" at the local Morrisons and a multifaith environmental collaboration, including the planting of hedges in Verulamium Park. Cheder pupils organised arts and crafts for elderly residents of a Roman Catholic care home, where its parent and toddler group entertained.

Teenagers baked and decorated muffins and cookies for the local women's refuge. Others partnered a group of disabled youngsters for an afternoon's outing.

Rabbi Rafi Kaiserbleuth said that "with 42 per cent of the community being involved today, I feel they are well on the way to achieving their goal [of 21 hours' voluntary service]."

Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue hosted a tea and entertainment in the synagogue for members of the Northwood Live at Home scheme, the Pinner and Northwood Good Companions groups, the shul's Tuesday Club and people in local residential homes.

NPLS senior minister Rabbi Aaron Goldstein said: "The interaction between our young people and the general public was illuminating. Those of other faiths were deeply moved to be invited to the synagogue for such an occasion."

Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue members made food collections outside Tesco for the Watford New Hope Trust - and at Just Kosher for Gift. Nursery children sang at a lunch for senior citizens for which other youngsters made table displays. There were also care home visits by young people.

World Jewish Relief, Children in Need and Homeless Action in Barnet were among beneficiaries of Finchley Reform's activities. Organiser Debbie Juggler said: "We also continued our work on the Glebelands nature reserve, baked biscuits for the FRS friendship club, held a bake sale and promoted the FRS green group."

On the premise that charity begins at home, Hendon Reform Synagogue's Mitzvah Day programme included the painting and repair of some of its classroom floors. Its Caring committee hosted elderly congregants for a coffee morning, bringing them to and from the synagogue, where they were entertained by religion-school children.

South London Liberal members went on a CitySafe walk in conjunction with London Citizens as a first step towards creating a CitySafe zone in Streatham. Other members participated in an interfaith event in Tooting and more supported the Ajex parade.

Rabbi Janet Darley took pride in congregants' "concrete action to make our community a better place to live and to improve surroundings for others".

Wanstead and Woodford Synagogue volunteers held a coffee morning at the Jewish Blind and Disabled home, Milne Court, which is next to the synagogue. Woodford Liberal Synagogue members collected 350 food items for Jason Lee House, formerly Redbridge Night Shelter, in Ilford. Cheder pupils made cards to send to British and Israeli soldiers.

One of the participating schools was Hertsmere Primary, where pupils laid coins on a giant photo of Pudsey Bear - it was Children in Need day - to raise money for charity. Akiva pupils in Finchley baked challah for patients at the North London Hospice, decorated plant pots for care home residents and invited elderly guests to tea and entertainment. Children from Kenton's Sobell Sinai Primary visited the Barnet General Hospital children's ward to present gifts of picture frames that had been made at school.

Last updated: 2:56pm, November 24 2011