Although I heard the Jewish phrase L’Dor Vador for the first time only last month, as it was announced as the theme for Mitzvah Day 2017, the sentiment behind it is something many Muslims feel.
This ideal of ‘From Generation to Generation’ is a centrepiece of our two religions, both in teaching our young and looking after our old. And it will certainly be on display throughout the UK as numerous Mitzvah Day interfaith and intergenerational projects take place on, and around, 19 November.
Recent findings from the Jo Cox Commission On Loneliness made for some very sobering reading. Three-quarters of older people said they are lonely and most said they have never told anyone and certainly not told family members.
Further heart-breaking studies have found older people booking GP appointments just for someone to talk to, and 3.9 million saying television is their main source of company.
For Muslims, just as for Jews, looking after and respecting our elderly is very much part of the faith. And indeed, as is true on many issues, we very much respect the way the British Jewish community combines managing this with the stresses and commitments of modern life.
For Muslims there is also a challenge, which can be an opportunity, at the other end of the age spectrum. More than half the members of our communities are under the age of 25.
Youth provision, ensuring our young people feel comfortable with being British, confident in being Muslim and still keeping in touch with roots that may link to other countries, is challenging at times.
What impact have the past few years had on our children and their identity? Muslims are facing unprecedented levels of discrimination and young people all have to deal with and process that in different ways, and there is no doubt it can be hard.
Of course, things are not always straightforward. I have watched with interest as the saga surrounding the Golders Green mosque has unfolded. It has been disappointing to see how many people, including some in the Jewish community, have allowed hatred and bigotry to erode any sense of reason.
But it has also been touching to see many more Jewish community leaders and organisations, including this newspaper, speak up for shared values, and remind us all how important it is that we work together.
When it comes to putting the old and young together in volunteering, the Jewish community’s approach is inspiring. I am always struck by how amazing it is to see generations from the same family involved in good work side by side.
At the launch event for Mitzvah Day, I was struck by the words of Rob Sher, who spoke passionately about his scheme with Jewish young professionals, making it easy for them to give even an hour a month working with elderly people, and the profound impact this has on them as young people.
I also love meeting older Jewish women, some of them almost double my age and still going strong, still involved in projects and chairing committees and often with no sign of stopping any time soon.
I want to see more of that approach develop among Muslim communities. Doing good for others, respecting the elderly, keeping young people connected to the home and to wider family, are all absolutely part of our faith teachings and through doing good work we can very much put our faith into action.
L’Dor Vador is a great sentiment and what a perfect and timely theme it is to choose for this year’s Mitzvah Day.
I’m sure it will generate some fantastic cross-community work on and around 19 November which will have a lasting impact on everyone involved long after the Day itself has finished.
- To get involved with Mitzvah Day, please visit www.mitzvahday.org.uk