We’re looking for 40,001 heroes this Mitzvah Day

It’s hard to watch the news without seeing something that outrages our Jewish values, whether it’s Donald Trump boasting about sexual assault, people trying to stop child refugees seeking sanctuary here or the recent rise we’ve seen in racism and anti-Semitism.

In this post-Brexit world – when the papers are full of stories of mistrust, hatred and racial tension – Mitzvah Day is focused this year, more than ever, on making positive headlines, through projects that tackle the challenges of modern society, and which bring people together who might otherwise stay apart.

That’s why I’m so proud to be part of this newspaper’s Community Hero Award, which shines a light on the people this world needs more of. This award, along with our own Mitzvah Day Awards, seeks to show all the wonderful things people are doing to help others and build a better society. But what makes a community hero? We are looking for someone who has performed an extraordinary act of kindness over the past year, or a person who has spent a lifetime helping those less fortunate.

I can’t think of anyone more fitting of the word hero than last year’s winner, Rachel Morgan. Despite suffering from hypermobility syndrome, which severely affects the body’s joints and pain pathways to the brain, Rachel raised thousands of pounds through physical feats, including 13 skydives.

Although Rachel sadly died before we could honour her, I was privileged to be able to present the award to her parents and family and celebrate the life of this truly incredible person.

The beauty of the Community Hero Award is the nachas it brings to all those nominated, increasing the profile of their work and cause.

Last year, on these pages, we read about a young man who organises teas for Holocaust survivors; a woman who, when she was just 16, established the only charity in the UK dedicated to raising funds for research into a cure for Crohn’s disease and an elderly lady who, on moving into care, set up a weekly session to ensure the well-being of others.

One of the traits of a hero is often that they don’t realise it themselves and/or are reluctant to push themselves forward.

So if you know someone fitting of this honour, please do make sure to nominate them by emailing 200 words outlining their work to editorial@thejngroup.com by 7 November.

And call me greedy, but it’s just not one hero I want… it’s 40,000 of them.

This year’s Mitzvah Day takes place on and around Sunday 27 November.

What started off as a small, mainly Jewish, day confined to certain areas of the UK has now become Britain’s largest interfaith day of social action and spread all over this country, and to more than 20 others too.

We are expecting 40,000 volunteers of all ages and faiths to take part in more than 2,000 global projects this year and we are focused on the together, the positive and the active.

While the benefit of the social action projects is very visible – whether through a repainted care home or a three-course meal delivered to a local shelter – it’s the longer-lasting, deeper, relationships being built that I’m most proud of.

It’s not often you see Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all faiths and none working together at a grassroots level and of all generations – making real friendships and dispelling stereotypes we hold about the other.

For some, Mitzvah Day is the first time they really converse with someone of a different faith or race. For others, it’s a chance to build on relationships by doing something practical together. For more still, it provides the opportunity to show there is more binding people of faith together than that separating us.

Especially in these difficult times, when there is a heightened fear of the outsider, the need to build bridges and unite people has never been greater. Our aim is to celebrate making a difference to local causes in joy and friendship. So, next month, be a hero and join us.

For more details email info@mitzvahday.org.uk

About the Author
Laura Marks is the founder and chair of Mitzvah Day, an international charity which works to alleviate poverty, to support the environment and to bring a little kindness all through active, hands on projects on Mitzvah Day. At the heart of Mitzvah Day is a belief that if we work side by side with our neighbours, we will build stronger, more resilient local communities. Taking the same thinking forward, Laura launched and co-chairs, Nisa-Nashim, a new national Jewish/Muslim women’s network. She is the newly appointed chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust which runs a national event and also thousands of local events, bringing people together to commemorate victims of the Holocaust and also, of other genocides. Laura lives in London, has three almost grown up children and husband, TV producer Dan Patterson.
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