Targeting a rise in mitzvot as the good deeds go global


The walls of Mitzvah Day's north London offices are plastered with targets for the continued development of the annual day of good deeds and its associated year-round projects.

Interviewed by the summer beach at the adjacent JW3 community centre, Mitzvah Day founder and chair Laura Marks was loth to reveal the target figures. But as preparations gather pace for the 2015 event in November, she highlighted its role in bridge-building with other faiths, particularly the Muslim community.

"You start something in a mosque and six people take part. The next year it's 20 but 200 more have heard about it. It's playing the long game."

On the global front, Mitzvah Day has received its first international grants towards three European start-ups and expanding Mitzvah Day Active, for unaffiliated young adults seeking some engagement with Judaism, "particularly in countries where it is harder to stand up and be Jewish".

Mitzvah Day already operates in Australia and Germany and Ms Marks saw the attraction to newcomers as "the sense of being part of a worldwide movement".

For the UK, an interim chief executive with wide experience in event management - including the launch of JW3 and this year's Yom Hashoah commemoration - has started work. Sue Shefras will look to build on the strong base of the 300-plus Mitzvah Day activities nationwide in 2014.

Ms Marks said that in some ways, the day had become a victim of its own success. "That is why we have to think of new ideas." One had been mitzvah mummies, where mums take their children to a home for the elderly to sing for residents.

This year's programme would see a renewed emphasis on engagement with politicians. "It's a wonderful opportunity to show MPs, mayors and councillors the community at its best," she observed.

The main Sunday has traditionally coincided with the national Ajex parade of Jewish ex-servicemen in Whitehall, with community members urged to make it their good deed to turn out to support the rally.

But following criticism that it distracted attention from the parade and that those engaged in projects were unable to attend, Mitzvah Day will this year be staged on the following week.

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