Green army reaches 37,000 as it marches on


Home Secretary Theresa May joined thousands of volunteers who took part in a record-breaking Mitzvah Day by donating her lunch to the homeless.

Sunday's ninth Mitzvah Day saw 37,000 people donate 150,000 hours of their time to participate in 1,200 social action projects across 20 countries.

In the biggest turnout yet for the annual Jewish-led project, that encourages people of all faiths to contribute time rather than money, members of 500 UK communities took part in food collections, conservation tasks and community outreach projects.

The Home Office signed up to donate lunches to a Salvation Army shelter just a stone's throw away from their offices as part of the "Give Away Your Lunch" scheme that saw 65 big businesses donating food to the homeless in their communities.

Germany held around 120 projects as Mitzvah Day's global reach became even broader.

Mitzvah Day founder and chair Laura Marks said: "Mitzvah Day's growth into an international movement is very much about our mutual wish to be connected and united, for us in the UK and also for all the other Jewish communities around the world who are leading MD in their countries. As a Jewish-led day, we value how social action is so much more powerful when Jews around the world do it together, somehow bridging the geographical distance."

This year's theme was "Mitzvah 365" which was a focus on people committing to volunteering throughout the year and not only on Mitzvah Day.

"We hope that by having one big volunteering day and celebrating it, it will have a knock-on effect, with people learning more about a charity or becoming a regular fundraiser," said Ms Marks.

Groups of all ages and faiths worked with their neighbourhood conservation groups to clear rubbish from parks and tidy cemeteries; school children sang to seniors in retirement homes; and hundreds of collections of food, clothing and toys took place.

"I love the fact that the whole community embraces the idea that a minimum of one day a year should be devoted to others. I call it, 'Jews at our best'," said Ms Marks.

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