A tea dance organised by young adults for Jewish Care clients at the charity’s Golders Green campus on Sunday was an apposite way to launch the Mitzvah Day programme for 2017.
For it encapsulates the inter-generational focus of the annual day of good deeds, which takes place this year on November 19.
It will have the theme of L’dor Vador — from generation to generation — with the aim of linking young and old through projects.
An overall theme is a first for Mitzvah Day, which last year involved 40,000 people worldwide, the vast majority in the UK.
“It’s a more overt recognition that Jewish life is about generational relationships and the passing down of values,” explained Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks.
“We couldn’t really do interfaith as it is now a core part of our work,” added executive director Dan Rickman.
“In today’s world we are very splintered. You need an excuse to do something together. This is a Jewish value we can relate to wider society.”
Different generations already join forces for Mitzvah Day projects such as food collections outside supermarkets. But this year, for example, Ms Marks hopes to see parents join their children at nursery for a joint activity. Projects will also be offered which can be done anywhere by families.
With the high turnout attracted on the day, the emphasis is switching from quantity to quality and Mr Rickman said great efforts had been made to help regional communities stage better activities. Further recognition of the regional contribution was the moving of the Mitzvah Day awards from the day itself to February to enable more representatives from outside the London area to attend.
Internationally, Mitzvah Day has taken off in Australia and Germany and with the support of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, it is looking to increase its African presence in countries such as Namibia and Mozambique. “They love being part of a global community,” Mr Rickman said.
Mitzvah Day follows on the heels of Shabbat UK and Ms Marks suggests that whereas Shabbat UK is inward looking, Mitzvah Day’s focus is outwards.
“I don’t know if we can change the world. But we do have to try at a grassroots level.”