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Maidenhead and Birmingham win at Mitzvah Day Awards

Progressive Judaism Award winners and nominees

Two Progressive communities won prestigious Mitzvah Day Awards for their interfaith social action on the day… and all year round.

Maidenhead Synagogue picked up the Outstanding British Mitzvah Day prize with Birmingham Progressive Synagogue walking away with Outstanding Interfaith Partnership.

Other communities receiving nominations included North West Surrey Synagogue, Menorah Synagogue, Southgate Progressive Synagogue, Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue, Kingston Liberal Synagogue, Alyth Synagogue, York Liberal Jewish Community and Progressive Jewish Link Northern Ireland – as well as Owen Power of York, Alexandra Domingue of Maidenhead and Dan Ozarow of The Liberal Synagogue Elstree.

Some of our wonderful Progressive winners and nominees are pictured above, accompanied by our friends and partners from other faiths.

Maidenhead Synagogue won the Outstanding British Mitzvah Day Award – along with South Hampstead Synagogue – for an incredible day of activities to support a variety of charities and causes, including cooking for those in food poverty, collecting for the homeless and working to improve the local environment.

Especially impressive were the number of other local faith groups joining them, including members of the Muslim, Christian and Hindu communities.

Alexandra Domingue and Julie Siddiqi MBE with Maidenhead Synagogue's Award
Alexandra Domingue and Julie Siddiqi MBE with Maidenhead Synagogue’s Award

Social entrepreneur and gender equality campaigner Julie Siddiqi MBE is one of the members of the Muslim community who regularly attends interfaith activities in Maidenhead. She has formed a close friendship with many at the synagogue, including Alexandra Domingue.

Both agreed that, this year, Jewish-Muslim interfaith work has been more important than ever.

Julie said: “I remember a very powerful moment that, even now when I think about it, is quite emotional for me. Mitzvah Day took place soon after 7 October and I was very aware of the fear and anxiety the Jewish community were feeling. Barbara from the synagogue, who I see every year, opened the door and we just hugged and both started crying. There were no words needed, it was a beautiful thing.

“Interfaith matters and it is at moments like this when it matters more than ever. I’m not really into talking, what makes the difference is to do things together, challenge misconceptions together and change the world together!”

Birmingham Progressive Synagogue (BPS) was presented with the Outstanding Interfaith Partnership Award for their programme for asylum seekers, which unites the large number of diverse faith groups in the city. A project between Wightman Road Mosque and Muswell Hill Synagogue also won in this category.

Tommer Spence, of BPS, added: “Working with Nisa-Nashim, Al-Abbas Islamic Centre and The Church at Carrs Lane, we have brought together people from seven faiths to show asylum seekers that they are welcome here in Birmingham. We are inspired to do this work by the members of our own Jewish community who are refugees or who are descended from refugees, along with the Torah’s mitzvah to love the stranger.”

The evening also featured an insightful panel discussion on the importance of social action in interfaith work, which included Progressive Judaism Co-Lead Rabbi Josh Levy.

Rabbi Josh said: “A strong society is built on a network of relationships and connections between communities. Those relationships then sustain us when times, and conversations, are difficult. These deep relationships aren’t easy to build. Mitzvah Day is invaluable because it is one of those rare occasions where we get to meet people we don’t know and to work with them in a different way.”

  • Pictures by Yakir Zur.
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