Radlett Synagogue members broke bread with Hare Krishna followers as the United congregation staged one of the biggest Mitzvah Day programmes.
There were 150 people at the Hertfordshire shul’s premises on Sunday morning, among them members of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple near Watford, gifted by Beatle George Harrison to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in 1973.
Local MP Oliver Dowden was also among the guests, who enjoyed lunch and a performance by a youth choir.
Welcoming visitors, Rabbi Jonathan Hughes said: “So many people from different faith groups have come together to make a connection with our community. The essence of a mitzvah is to make a connection with others.”
Hare Krishna Sandeep Sidana told the JC: “Events like these are really important. It’s great for the Jewish community here to invite us and it helps to show how similar we all are. We all have a spiritual connection.”
Another temple member, Bhavesh Lodha, said: “It’s very good for the new generations to see this. They come to know each other and hopefully they will mix together and get to know each other’s culture.
“There is a very good relationship between the leaders of the temple and the Jewish community.”
Mr Dowden took “pleasure” in seeing constituents take the day’s theme of inter-generational activity to heart and showing initiative in tackling loneliness and isolation.
“Events like this are just so important,” he said. “One thing you realise as an MP is how good the community is — especially the religious community — at taking on things like Mitzvah Day.”
Organiser Michelle Becker told the JC that members were knitting woolly hats for premature babies which would be donated to the neonatal unit at nearby Watford General Hospital.
And in keeping with the day’s theme, the elderly gave knitting instruction to young participants.
Also at Radlett was Mitzvah Day executive director Dan Rickman, who said the day “is all about working side by side. Everybody has it within themselves to help out and give back and that’s what makes it so special.
“It’s all down to the desire of people to do good. Mitzvah Day is just the extra push, the extra incentive.”
Five miles away, members of Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue (EHRS) were engaged in initiatives including cooking soup for a local homeless shelter, decorating cupcakes for the shul’s in-house children’s centre and making Chanukah cards for the elderly.
Other volunteers were dispatched to the New Hope homeless sanctuary in Watford to hang bunting and spruce up its garden. More helped to clean Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh family centre in Hendon, collected goods for a foodbank and sorted buttons for a Holocaust memorial art project.
Marian Cohen, who helped to organise the EHRS programme, along with Anna Flash and Emma Senitt, said: “It’s so important to look outside of our shul and go out and do work in the community.
“That’s why Mitzvah Day is so important. Obviously we should think about others every day of the year but it really helps to show our children the importance of being outward-looking.”
Mrs Flash added: “It’s great to get involved. The strength of Mitzvah Day really is in the volunteers. We are trying to educate our children — that is what we do as a community.
“Whether it’s collecting food or donations or going to paint a fence, it’s important to help others. We get volunteers from all age ranges. We get kids and their parents and grandparents all helping out.”