MPs swapped stories with Holocaust survivors in the heart of Parliament as Mitzvah Day 2017 was launched in Westminster.
Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary and MP for Leeds Central, was among politicians who chatted to visitors both young and old, including Holocaust survivors, encapsulating the inter-generational theme of this year’s programme.
Other Parliamentarians included Alex Sobel (Leeds North West), the sole new Jewish MP elected in June, and Stephen Pound (Ealing North), a longstanding Mitzvah Day supporter.
Mr Pound said Mitzvah Day “crystallises the ethos of service. And in terms of the image of modern Judaism, it’s probably one of the most positive things that can be imagined.
“The connections made between different communities — Christian groups, Muslim groups, Hindu groups — carry forward.
“After the Grenfell Tower disaster, people from Holland Park Synagogue were working with the people from a mosque they’d met through Mitzvah Day.”
For Mr Sobel, the event “is all about shared values, shared beliefs. This year’s theme is really important.”
Fellow Leeds Jewish MP Fabian Hamilton recalled being moved by a Mitzvah Day activity where volunteers baked bread to feed Syrian refugees.
Launch guest Lily Ebert, an Auschwitz survivor, was “delighted” to see young people taking an interest in her story. “We need to tell people what happened.
“It doesn’t matter that we are different. It doesn’t matter what your religion or nationality is. That’s also what Mitzvah Day is for. It says we are all the same.”
Vera Schaufeld, who arrived in Britain as a nine-year-old on the Kindertransport, said that, while it was interesting to speak to MPs, the highlight of the reception for her had been talking to youth leaders.
“Speaking to young people is how the stories stay alive. That’s the future. We all feel so strongly about this.”