Mitzvah Day founder made OBE for services to interfaith relations

Laura Marks addresses residents at Hammerson House care home for Mitzvah Day 2014. Picture: Polly Ha

Laura Marks addresses residents at Hammerson House care home for Mitzvah Day 2014. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

The founder of a Jewish charity that has spread across the world since its inception in 2005 has been honoured for her services to interfaith relations.

Laura Marks, founder of Mitzvah Day International, has been made an OBE as part of the New Year Honours recommended by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The charity aims to bring people from all faiths together for a day of social action each year.

Mitzvah Day, supported by the Ham&High, has grown from an inaugural event involving just over 100 people at the Britannia hotel, in Belsize Park, in 2005 to a worldwide initiative marked by 37,000 people around the globe last year.

Ms Marks, 54, who lives in Chalcot Road, Primrose Hill, said: “People of all faith groups and people of no faith groups believe in doing things for other people but don’t know how to go about doing it. Mitzvah Day provides the structure to do that.

“It’s very difficult to bring people of different faiths together over difficult subjects but it’s easier to bring people together for something that everyone fundamentally agrees with.

“You’re not saying, ‘Let’s bring people together and talk about difficult politics.’ You’re saying, ‘Let’s go out and clean up Kentish Town Farm.’”

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Ms Marks, a former South Hampstead High School pupil, set up the charity after attending a mitzvah day at a synagogue in Hollywood, USA, where she lived for a time with her TV producer husband Dan Patterson, co-creator of comedy shows Mock the Week and Whose Line Is It Anyway?

“I thought it was a wonderful idea and I thought, ‘I want to bring this positive vibe back to London,’” she said.

The mother-of-three believes the charity, based in Finchley Road, is more relevant now than ever.

“Last year was quite tough on the interfaith front, what with all the trouble in the Middle East,” she said.

“It’s made us realise it’s even more important to build relationships with our neighbours.”