Mitzvah Day Awards
The annual Mitzvah Day Awards recognise those volunteers and projects that go above and beyond to make a real difference in society. Mitzvah Day is also proud to team with The Jewish News to find a Community Hero.
Nominations for the 2017 Awards will open in early October. Here we celebrate our 2016 winners:
Winners – Simon Cooper and Rebecca Woolfe
Simon Cooper was the epitome of a brave, selfless individual. Suffering from cystic fibrosis from birth, Simon was an ambassador for NHS Blood & Transplant, raised money for many different charities and, as a brilliant drummer and musician, devised the ‘Friday Night Rock’ service.
When Simon was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2016 he planned to raise more money for good causes, together with his sister Rebecca Woolfe, by putting the ‘Simon says Let’s Party’ event – a fundraising dinner and dance.
After Simon sadly died in July, Rebecca took over the organisation and running of the charity event on her own – doing a wonderful job and raising more than £20,000 and counting.
All the judges agreed that: “It is impossible to read Simon’s story without being moved. This amazing young man achieved so much in his life and it’s even more special to see that his sister, Rebecca, is carrying on his work. The amount they have raised for charity, the causes they have fought for, and what they have done for the Jewish community as a whole makes them true heroes.”
Rebecca – who picked up the award with mum Angela and Simon’s wife Claire – said: “We all see Simon as a hero and inspiration in more ways than one. When you think about what he went through health wise, and what he achieved in his life, most people don’t achieve that in a lifetime of 100 years.”
The joint runners-up for the award were Arnold Levin, whose New Chapters social enterprise – selling second hand books on Amazon – has changed the lives of Langdon volunteers with learning disabilities, helping them to gain skills and build confidence, and Harold Newman, who has spent more than six decades working tirelessly for the Jewish community, campaigning and fundraising.
Biggest Impact (pictured)
Winner – Jewish Lads’ & Girls’ Brigade (JLGB)
What bigger impact can there be than five hundred young Jews in the 30 JLGB groups in Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Liverpool and all across Greater London and Essex, spending the week of Mitzvah Day supporting Goods for Good, by making welcome cards and donating crayons for child refugees. JLGB chose the project as the organisation’s roots and heritage are intrinsically linked to supporting and welcoming Jewish refugees.
All-Year Round Award
Winner – Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation (DJPC)
This award is presented to a synagogue, organisation or individual who employs the Mitzvah Day ethos 365 days a year. Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation does just that. After first working with Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) last Mitzvah Day – they now spend all year collecting and sorting clothes for the charity, as well as now moving on to creating hygiene packs and training volunteers in outreach.
Best Interfaith Partnership (chosen by Communities Minister Lord Bourne)
Winner – Bradford Reform Synagogue
Communities Minister Lord Bourne judged this award and, out of 10 very worthy nominees, gave the trophy to Bradford’s Jewish and Muslim communities, who united on Mitzvah Day to host a tea for refugees. Lord Bourne said: “ I was impressed to see the Jewish and Muslim communities coming together to reach out to asylum seekers and refugees in their community, representing the spirit of interfaith and the power of social action to encourage cohesion. A cup of tea is a simple thing, but in such circumstances can mean a lot.”
Top School Project
Winner – Watford Grammar Girls
Watford Girls Grammar split into groups of 10-15 people for three special projects. The first team of girls visited a care home to spend time/entertain/bring in cupcakes for older residents. The next went going to Primark to purchase multi-packs of underwear and baby grows for Rwandan Sisterhood Charity and R2Recovery to help genocide victims and refugees. The third made welcome cards for refugee children arriving in the UK.
Best Office Project
Winner – Dropbox
Although Mitzvah Day is often seen as the preserve of faith communities and schools, many offices do projects each year. For 2016, Dropbox impressed the most. Doing Mitzvah Day for the first time last year, they gave away their lunch to the local St Mungo’s shelter. This year, they went much further – taking the day off work to go to St Mungo’s, serve lunch to the residents and give out toiletry gift bags.