"Faith is the final frontier" of prejudice, according to the founder of Mitzvah Day

Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks.

Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks. - Credit: Yakir Zur

Faith groups have been at the forefront of community action during the coronavirus pandemic, but the founder of Mitzvah Day has warned that religious prejudice remains.

Laura Marks OBE was speaking on this week's Ham&High Podcast, referencing a recent report by the Woolf Institute, whose authors described religious prejudice as the “final frontier” for diversity, as people still appeared willing to express negative attitudes.

The Primrose Hill resident is chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and co-founder of Nisa-Nashim, a Jewish and Muslim women’s network, and is a member of the mayor of London’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group.

In 2005 she founded Mitzvah Day, an annual Jewish day of community action, which she said is a structure "to allow people to come together".

"The reason it works, I believe, is because people want to do good," she said. 

"Most people are good people, they're normal people, they lead normal lives and if you ask them, of course what they want to do is to make the world a better place, but they don't know how."

READ MORE: Mitzvah Day volunteers have never made a bigger difference

But despite the good done by faith groups, Laura said prejudice remains when it comes to religion, meaning those with faith often "leave it at the door" when going to work, for example.

"It's the one we haven't really addressed yet," she said. 

Most Read

"I think it's partly because a lot of people think that people who are of faith, whatever that means, are a bit weird. 

"And I think people are a bit wary: What does that mean? Does it mean that you're a radical? And does that mean that you're extreme? Does that mean that you are very conservative in your views?

"On the other hand, other people thinks it makes you fantastic: It means that you're at the forefront of social action and social justice, and caring for the lonely and caring for the homeless."

She said there is a polarisation in what people think about faith groups, but that most people's faith contributes to the common good.

"They are leading the way on things like loneliness. Look at loneliness," she said. "Loneliness is just a perfect example. Who knows more about loneliness in this country, during the pandemic, than the faith groups? Who's dealing with it more on a day-to-day basis? 

For the full interview, visit https://podfollow.com/hamhigh/ to subscribe to the Ham&High Podcast.

Ham&High Podcast.

Ham&High Podcast. - Credit: Archant