Mitzvah Day organisers may well have saved one of the best projects for last, bringing together a group of 14 high-flying Muslim and Jewish women to cook for the homeless last Wednesday.
Islamic Society of Britain executive director Julie Siddiqi and Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks came up with the idea. Writer and chef Denise Phillips led the session in the kitchen of the new JW3 centre in Finchley Road, where the cooks included Dr Husna Ahmed, secretary general of the World Muslim Leadership Forum, JW3 chair Debbie Klein and Jude Williams, CEO of international development charity Tzedek.
Ms Williams said the event sparked an “easy conversation on two levels”, with participants discussing the different challenges faced by their communities, as well as finding common ground in their work and family lives.
“To be cooking something together was lovely,” she said. “It gave us something to do while we were talking. Everyone felt at the end that these could be real friendships between peers.”
Ms Siddiqi said there had been a “nice, relaxed atmosphere. We chatted and laughed as we cooked some awesome food.”
Such projects were important to strengthen ties. “We have so much to learn and benefit from each other, something I have come to realise more and more over the past couple of years.”
Echoing her sentiments, Ms Marks described the activity as “genuine hands-on interfaith social action. It’s unquestionable that in some way our collaboration addressed one of our more pressing social issues.
“But it really was so much more. The spirit and warmth of this group of women who had never met was palpable, with a desire to learn more about one another and to think about how we can do more good together.
“Pretty much everyone who I invited dropped what they were doing and came, which fits into my theory that everyone is looking to reach out to other faiths. The buzz in the room was extraordinary and everyone was exchanging phone numbers by the end.”