Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks: ‘Why we’re supporting homeless shelters this year’

Laura Marks, founder and director Mitzvah Day, talks about why the annual Jewish day of giving will this year support local homeless shelters by partnering with the Ham&High to encourage readers to Give Away Your Lunch.

Two weeks ago, for seven days, many in our Jewish community ate their meals in a makeshift hut called a ‘sukka’, as part of the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot, known also as a season for rejoicing. How you may wonder, with the threat of seasonal elements, is this tradition conducive to rejoicing?

Our sages teach us that residing in this temporary dwelling is a symbolic gesture to help us empathise with our ancestors who wandered in the desert for 40 years, vulnerable and fragile in their “homelessness”.

And so our annual experience becomes joyous, empowering us to feel gratitude for all that we have in both physical and spiritual ways. Sadly, it also serves as a stark reminder that there are those in our society, in communities across the UK today, who are extremely vulnerable or homeless.

It reminds us that we all have collective responsibility.

The statistics are sobering, the social triggers complex and the old-fashioned stereotypes that some uphold, unhelpful.

The issue of homelessness is more than ever very much on our doorsteps. Our job at Mitzvah Day is not to debate the rights and wrongs but to create awareness and embolden individuals, community organisations, offices, schools and social groups to get involved. To participate in practical voluntary ways by assisting the numerous homeless shelters and drop-in centres that serve thousands upon thousands of people daily and consequently rely heavily on the kindnesses of those who give of their time for nothing.

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A compelling yet simple formula, this year’s Give Away Your Lunch Mitzvah Day homeless shelter initiative, which is now in its fourth year but is being run in partnership with the Ham&High for the first time, has shown that it is mutually beneficial for those on the receiving end and those who enjoy the privilege of the giving.

Last year 30 organisations and their employees and members from a variety of organisations made, bought or brought lunch, delivering as a group to the shelter or centre and stopping for an hour or so to engage with those vulnerable people in our community so often isolated from daily living.

The professionals running these centres inform us that the voluntary time donated contributes in lasting, immeasurable ways to the health and well-being of these individuals.

This year we’re thrilled to have 43 organisations committed, many repeats and one third new.

But with Mitzvah Day still five weeks away we can’t afford to rest on our laurels and together with the Ham&High we’re excited to challenge everyone to play your part in making your local community around you a more inclusive, considerate and better one.

Sign up today to Give Away Your Lunch for Mitzvah Day from November 15 to 17.

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