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Jews and Muslims unite to make the largest ever amount of chicken soup to feed the homeless  

Mitzvah Day and Muslim Aid set record as part of Britain’s biggest interfaith day of social action – with thousands of portions of soup made by both faiths

Soup cooking events held all over the UK and as far away as Australia

Britain’s biggest interfaith day of social action Mitzvah Day and leading international charity Muslim Aid are today teaming up to make the largest volume ever of chicken soup, which will feed London’s homeless and vulnerable. This cookathon is the flagship event for the national Mitzvah Day ChickenSoupChallenge.

Over 1,000 portions of soup are being cooked throughout the day using the kitchens at the East London Mosque; the majority will be made to a traditional Jewish chicken soup recipe, using halal chickens.

This will be part of more than 2,500 portions of kosher, halal, vegetarian and/or vegan soup cooked up at 20 events nationally – all of which are being taken by volunteers to shelters and hostels all around the UK and shared with those most in need. Soup-making events are also taking place in Germany, Poland, South Africa and Australia.

Chicken soup is often known as ‘Jewish penicillin’ for its nurturing and medicinal properties. Soup also has significance for Muslims, as there is a prophetic tradition which encourages Muslims to water down broth, so there is always enough to share with neighbours.

Laura Marks OBE, founder and chair of Mitzvah Day, said: “Mitzvah Day is all about bringing people together through social action to fulfil the real need in today’s world of breaking down barriers. Some of the people from each community taking part will never have met a Jewish or a Muslim person before, let alone chopped vegetables alongside them, and will now be leaving as friends.”

Jehangir Malik, CEO of Muslim Aid said: “If we let our imaginations take us back about 80 years, the site of the mosque was the former Fieldgate Street synagogue, which will have attracted crowds of Jewish people on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. This Mitzvah Day #ChickenSoupChallenge is a wonderful initiative to bring our two communities together in a part of London which is meaningful to us both and to spread a positive interfaith message around the world.”

Volunteers chopping vegetables, making matzo balls and stirring the soup include Rabbi Roni Tabick from New Stoke Newington synagogue and families from his congregation, Imam Mohammed Mahmoud from East London Mosque, Muslim Aid volunteers including Muslim scouts from the 8th East London Scout Group, people of all religions from the London School of Economics (LSE) interfaith group and Jewish volunteers from the B’nai B’rith Youth Organisation (BBYO).

Recipients of the soup have been extremely enthusiastic, these include the Salvation Army, homelessness charity St Mungo’s and the Acre Lane Centre for supported housing in Brixton.

“This soup is greatly appreciated, as some of the residents do not have much money and this would help tremendously. This is wonderful,” said Acre Lane project assistant Mohammed Abayazied.

The cookathon is part of Muslim Aid’s 2018 Winter Campaign. This includes fundraising activities all over the UK and a school and mosque tour by well-known Qu’ranic recital scholars, to uplift audiences during the coldest time of year and inspire a sense of generosity towards those most in need.

Other nationwide Mitzvah Day events forming part of the #ChickenSoupChallenge include cooks at Radlett United Synagogue, attended by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the JW3 Jewish Community Centre on Finchley Road and the Salaam Shalom Kitchen in Nottingham. Soup is also being made by Jewish and Muslim communities in Hertfordshire, Essex, Wimbledon, Norwich, Leeds, Peterborough and Manchester.

All those taking part were provided with suggested recipes including a traditional Jewish Friday night chicken soup from a recipe provided by EastEnders actress Tracy-Ann Oberman, star of hit TV show Friday Night Dinner which features a Jewish family, a Muslim vegetarian soup contributed by Masterchef winner Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed or a vegan chicken soup devised by the Jewish Vegetarian Society.

Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed said: “I am delighted to be part of this fantastic interfaith venture. To me the cookathon is testament to the immense power to do good that arises from friendly collaborative ventures across communities. Helping those in need by cooking delicious soup together will help provide vital nutrition needed to ward off infections, heal the body and survive the bitter cold.”

The challenge at the East London Mosque is being supported by Elite Caterers, who are professional Asian wedding caterers and experienced at cooking for very large events, however they have never cooked Jewish chicken soup before. Elite have generously supplied volunteers, all ingredients, utensils, transport and delivery.

More than 40,000 volunteers around the world took part in 2,000 Mitzvah Day projects on, and around, Sunday 18 November including entertaining in care homes, cleaning up cemeteries and parks, hosting teas and lunches for refugees and collecting clothes and food items to help those in need.

Mitzvah Day begun as a day of Jewish social action 10 years ago but has now become a fully interfaith event, where people of all faiths and none give their time rather than their money to help others and build stronger local communities.

Muslim Aid is one of the top 20 UK relief and development agencies, alongside Christian Aid, Save the Children and Oxfam. It was set up in the UK in 1985 to provide humanitarian assistance to disaster affected countries and to help poor communities overcome poverty. Muslim Aid covers 70 countries, working with all communities irrespective of faith, ethnic origin or political system.