Taking Mitzvah Day to a broader demographic


Leaders of Mitzvah Day are targeting unaffiliated Jews to widen involvement in the November weekend of good deeds.

A revamped website will help groups or individuals not involved in communal life to organise a Mitzvah Day project or join an existing one. It will also assist those in smaller communities looking to run an activity.

Founder chair Laura Marks said young adults wanted to be involved in social action and interfaith events.

"We are making the shidduch," added Dan Rickman, who joined Mitzvah Day as director having previously served Magen David Adom UK as fundraising head.

"If there are a handful of Jews in Bristol who want to do something, we can give them a tailor-made project."

We can find a project for a handful of Jews in Bristol

National and international planning is at an advanced stage for the 2016 programme.

Last year's global participation total of 40,000 ( 25,000 in the UK) should be exceeded with expansion into Poland, Belarus and Belgium. "These are not the countries you would expect but the ones whose communities need it the most," Ms Marks explained. "It is good to have something positive about being Jewish."

A core attraction was that people liked the idea of being part of a worldwide movement. "We might have a synagogue in Greece doing Mitzvah Day as Kinloss does," Mr Rickman said.

For the domestic market, a launch event will be held in Parliament next month. "What we really want is MPs representing small Jewish communities to get involved," Ms Marks stressed. For politicians, Mitzvah Day was a non-controversial subject. "We will not be talking about Israel, antisemitism or shechitah."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has committed to a major event at City Hall on the Friday of the Mitzvah Day weekend.

Engagement with other faiths will remain a key element. "Interfaith things often sound intimidating," Mr Rickman acknowledged. An invitation to a Seder could seem daunting for a non-Jew. They would feel more comfortable joining a mixed faith group to cook a meal for the homeless.

Ms Marks noted that "almost every established Jewish organisation now does Mitzvah Day. We are reaching out to get the Charedi community involved."

One of the more innovative projects is being run through world aid charity Tzedek.

Twinning Ghana schools with Jewish schools in the UK, it will see the "twins" take on the same Mitzvah Day activity - for example visiting residents in a home.

There will also be projects at secular schools with significant Jewish pupil numbers.

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