Members of faith communities in Bradford and Leeds worked in collaboration for this year’s Mitzvah Day, the annual Jewish community-led day of social action, which took place across the country on Sunday 21 November.
The Mitzvah Day also marked the final day of Interfaith Week 2021.
Interfaith is an annual week in November that aims to strengthen good inter-faith relations, increase awareness of different and distinct faith communities, and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious belief.
Mitzvah Day was founded in 2005 and each year community groups and individuals undertake a range of volunteer projects for those in need in their local community.
The objective of the day is to encourage people to give their time, rather than their money, to worthwhile local causes.
‘Mitzvah’ is the Hebrew biblical term for ‘deed’ or ‘commandment’, which has come to mean ‘good deed’ or ‘charitable act’ in contemporary English.
This year’s theme was ‘Together This Mitzvah Day’, and in the run-up to Mitzvah Day a range of faith institutions, community organisations and individuals from the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Christian faith traditions in Leeds and Bradford donated a wide range of items to support two local domestic abuse charities.
The initiative was coordinated by Simon Phillips, director of Interfaith for the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, and Jenny Ramsden, Interfaith Advisor to the Diocese of Leeds, in partnership with Kaneez Khan from Near Neighbours and Wellness Springs and chief executive of BEAP Community Partnership, Humayun Islam.
On Mitzvah Day itself, members from diverse faith communities from across Bradford and Leeds gathered at the BEAP Community Partnership in Manningham to sort and pack the donated goods, which were then delivered to Staying Put and Leeds Women’s Aid.
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth and MP Alex Sobel for Leeds North West were both in attendance.
The director of Interfaith for the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, Simon Phillips, said: “It’s wonderful that we can all be together again this year on Mitzvah Day, but we know that Covid and the periods of lockdown have exacerbated the problem of domestic abuse.
“We wanted to show how supporting victims of abuse is a moral and ethical imperative of faith leaders and faith communities.”
Kaneez Khan from Near Neighbours and Wellness Springs said: “I want to give thanks to organisations across Bradford and Leeds who donated food and clothes. I want to especially thank those who donated culturally appropriate food items.”
Chief executive of BEAP, Humayun Islam, said: “We were part of Mitzvah Day as BEAP where we gave the space for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday so that donations could be kept and packed all together.
“It was an inter-faith event where people from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh and Hindu community came together to donate amazing food parcels and clothing that will be given to Staying Put.
“Once I was asked by Kaneez from Near Neighbours, I jumped on it really.”
Rebecca Heeley, from Staying Put, who received half of the donations given, said: “Domestic and sexual abuse, is, sadly, on the rise. In West Yorkshire, alone police recorded 52,696 domestic abuse crimes, which represents 17% of all recorded crimes.
“Victims of abuse need a great deal of help and support to recover and go on to lead independent lives. They need a helping hand, kind words, someone they can talk to who won’t judge; and they need practical help; help with finances, help to set up new homes when they’re ready.
“Often, it’s the small but essential things that are overlooked and this is where your help is so very valuable and so sincerely appreciated. With your wonderful help and support, you can feel justifiably proud that you’re helping us to help people to move on, to regain some of what they’ve lost, to start a new life.”