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Food conquers the faith divide: Camden’s religious communities unite to feed homeless

Cooking up a feast: (From left) Ziad Elhady, Rabbi Natan Levy, Fiona Seitler and her daughter Katie Koschland, Fahim Mazhary and Daniela Pears at the interfaith cooking event at JW3. Picture: Nigel Sutton Cooking up a feast: (From left) Ziad Elhady, Rabbi Natan Levy, Fiona Seitler and her daughter Katie Koschland, Fahim Mazhary and Daniela Pears at the interfaith cooking event at JW3. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Saturday, June 21, 2014
9:00 AM

Whether they pray in a gurdwara, mosque, synagogue or church, volunteers and organisers of different faiths have been gathering in Finchley Road to cook up a storm and help the underprivileged.

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(From left) Farzana Kosar, Ghonche Alavi, Kathy Lo Raso, Juliette Sonabend and Ateeq Parvaz. Picture: Nigel Sutton(From left) Farzana Kosar, Ghonche Alavi, Kathy Lo Raso, Juliette Sonabend and Ateeq Parvaz. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The JW3 community centre and charity Mitzvah Day, together with different faith communities, have run a series of sessions which offer the opportunity for different faiths to cook food for the homeless.

The event is run by Daniela Pears, newly elected Mayoress of Camden and interfaith chairman of Mitzvah Day.

People came from all over London including Hendon, Finchley, South Hampstead and Hornsey to offer their support and cooking skills.

Daniela said: “We’re here with a real love for cooking and building friendships along the way. Although we’re from all over London, we have one thing in common – helping those in need. It really makes a difference.”

Too many cooks spoil the broth? Not at this pioneering project to make food for the homeless. Picture: Nigel SuttonToo many cooks spoil the broth? Not at this pioneering project to make food for the homeless. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The Demonstration Kitchen is certainly a flurry of activity, with organisers milling around in the signature green Mitzvah Day T-shirts, volunteers fussing over pots of lasagne sauce and others painstakingly chopping apples for the crumble.

On the menu when the Ham&High visited on Monday was lasagne, Quorn with cous cous, macaroni and cheese and of course, the apple crumble.

The idea is for different faith groups to cook together and donate the food they make to local homeless shelters Doorstep and St Mungo’s.

“Everything cooked today will be sent straight to the charities the following morning,” Daniela explained.

Mother and daughter team Fiona Seitler and Katie Koschland. Picture: Nigel SuttonMother and daughter team Fiona Seitler and Katie Koschland. Picture: Nigel Sutton

It is to help out people who are often living on extremely low incomes, isolated and cut off from families and support networks.

This is all part of Mitzvah Day’s year-round strategy to engage and build relationships through social action with other faith groups.

They have previously held events at the JW3 Demonstration Kitchen on May 19, attended by Tulip Siddiq, former cabinet member for culture at Camden Council, and on June 2, when Camden’s new mayor, Cllr Lazzaro Pietragnoli was among the guests.

Farhim Mazhary, an active member of the Muslim community, explained how he attended the event on June 2 and came back because he loved the sense of community.

“Regardless of faith we must help the weak and underprivileged and this is a great way of doing that,” he said.

As she stirs a pot of lasagne sauce, Fiona Seitler, one of the Mitzvah Day team, introduces her daughter, Katie Koschland, and adds that she has even brought 10-year-old son Ben before.

Each session is targeted at a specific geographical community and ideally attended by people who would like to maintain connections afterwards.

And this isn’t the end for the ambitious Mitzvah Day team. Look out for an upcoming event in January 2015.

Senior project manager Michelle Bauernfreund is optimistic for the future. “The next one will be the biggest one yet,” she assured.

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