When most people think about the Armed Forces, it’s combat, training and travel that springs to mind. But service isn’t only on the front line, nor is it purely international.
In fact, many of our responsibilities lie close to home, with local outreach an essential aspect of Armed Forces’ duty.
As such, serving personnel regularly organise and attend public engagement events. This includes AFMA members, who earlier this week had the privilege of attending a Mitzvah Day event at Spring Grove residential care home in Swiss Cottage.
Those present included serving and retired soldiers including Imam Asim Hafiz OBE – Islamic adviser to the Chief of the Defence Staff –and Rabbi (Major) Reuben Livingstone, the Armed Forces’ senior Jewish chaplain.
What is Mitzvah Day?
A Mitzvah is a commandment in Jewish law, and is similar to Zakat in terms of its focus on charity and civic participation in social improvement.
Often Mitzvah is used to mean a good deed or an act of kindness and that is the basis for Mitzvah Day,the UK’s biggest faith-based day of volunteering.
The day attempts to encourage the giving of time, not money, to make a difference to the community around us and is guided by principles of the Jewish faith:
- Tikkun Olam
The Hebrew translates as ‘healing’ or ‘perfecting’ the world to instill a shared responsibility in the welfare of society at large – helping others, looking after our environment, and addressing diverse human rights.
- Gemilut Chasadim
The Hebrew literally means ‘the giving of loving-kindness’ which knows no bounds and not only teaches the art of giving but also not to expect to receive something material in return. Acts of kindness are engraved in a Jewish way of life, where individuals give selflessly of their time and of themselves. Every year on Mitzvah Day, thousands do just that, through projects based on the principle of doing acts of kindness.
The Hebrew translates as ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’ and, can manifest itself through social action and acts of loving-kindness; not because it feels good but because the Jewish faith commands that it is the right thing to do.
Support and solidarity
Showing our support for Mitzvah day was a priority for us at AFMA. Not just because it is a cause that overlaps significantly with our own Islamic values and a key part of our community engagement as members of the Armed Forces; but because in a climate of rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia celebrating our commonality has never been more essential.
The nature of life in the forces means we’re used to living side by side with those of different faiths, creeds and colours; it’s what makes the British army one of the best in the world.
Spreading this message means celebrating the diverse communities from which our fellow servicemen and women hail, it means highlighting the shared aspects of our cultures and values. Most importantly, it means showing solidarity for each other’s positive efforts and activism. That’s why mutual initiatives like the Spring Grove trip are so important.
Mitzvah Day founder and chair Laura Marks said: “Having Muslim and Jewish military personnel giving up their valuable free time and coming to visit elderly residents of Spring Grove sends a powerful message.”
We hope to see many more communities coming together to hold similar events over the coming seven days, as the Interfaith Week is celebrated annually up and down the country.
To find out about how to get involved with activities happening in your area, visit the Interfaith Week website.