Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis got the Mitzvah Day ball rolling last Friday when he delivered balloons to children’s wards at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead in an event organised by Camp Simcha.
“I’m delighted to be involved,” he said. “Mitzvah Day is important because it reminds us of the importance of performing mitzvahs every day of the year.”
The young featured heavily in activities, an example being the 250 children who gathered at Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue on Sunday to take part in a variety of projects — from making sandwiches for soup kitchens in Muswell Hill and Crouch End to preparing gift bags for the armed forces.
There was also a Great Cake Off, with homemade treats baked for the porters and nurses at the Royal Free and Hammerson House, and clothes donated for victims of the Philippines typhoon.
Aviva Sharp, 10, said she was delighted to be taking part. “I’m decorating bags for Chanucah presents. Today we’re paying our respects to people and giving something back.”
Over at the new JW3 centre in Finchley Road, 150 children prepared Chanucah parcels for soldiers in Israel, and filled shoe boxes with toys and sweets for impoverished families in Eastern Europe. Others made a banner for Darfur Together in a project connecting the Jewish community with Darfuri refugees in London.
There was also an afternoon of interfaith storytelling presented by a Jew and a Muslim, Adele Moss and Jumana Moon.The women used traditional religious stories and musical props to teach the similarities and differences between the two faiths. The programme proved a great hit with the young audience, aged three to six.
At Jewish Care, chief executive Simon Morris welcomed the efforts of volunteers at its centres. “Volunteering isn’t just about giving,” he said. “People get a great deal from it too.”
For Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks, a whirlwind Sunday was rounded off as she joined husband Dan Patterson and friend Simon Style for a singalong at the Clore Manor home in Hendon.
More than 20 residents clapped along to familiar favourites such as You Are My Sunshine and My Old Man. And, responding to audience demand, they closed with songs from Fiddler on the Roof.