Melting Pot |

U.K. Jews and Muslims Join Hands to Cook Chicken Soup for the Homeless

As part of National Mitzvah Day, hundreds of volunteers participated in a chicken soup cook-a-thon for homeless shelters and others in need

Danna Harman
Danna Harman
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A rabbi and imam working together to make matzo balls, November 18, 2018.
A rabbi and imam working together to make matzo balls, November 18, 2018. Credit: Yakir Zur
Danna Harman
Danna Harman

LONDON – London School of Economics students showed up with the matzo meal, the Halal caterers came schlepping 90 chickens and 40 kilos of carrots and the Muslim scouts from the 8th East London troops rolled up their sleeves, joining in with the New Stoke Newington synagogue youngsters in chopping up wedges of garlic.

The chicken soup cook-a-thon Sunday, which saw hundreds of young volunteers getting together at dozens of venues across the country to cook up traditional pots of soup – was this years’ flagship event for the national Mitzvah Day. As its name implies, Mitzvah Day gets Jewish communities and individuals to sign up for projects and spend a day doing mitzvahs, preferably sweeping up their non-Jewish friends and neighbors in the efforts.

To really understand Israel and the Jewish world - subscribe to Haaretz

Ishaq – “I don’t actually like chicken soup” – Haque, 17, was one of those who epitomized the spirit. Recruited by Muslim Aid, a charity that partnered with Mitzvah Day to sponsor and coordinate the #ChickenSoupChallange, Haque found himself spending the sunny Sunday on a celery chopping line at the East London Muslim Center.

“The taste of this kind of soup is too different, isn’t it? Not sure about it…” he admitted to some volunteers from Bnai Brith Youth Organization, alongside him on line, who were busy comparing their moms’ recipes. "But I am here because I like to help people,” he added.

Volunteers cooking soup for national Mitzvah Day, Sunday, 18, 2018. Credit: Yakir Zur

Beyond shredding chickens and carefully placing bay leaves, the mitzvah aspect here involved what would come afterwards – sending out the thousands of portions of soup to homeless shelters, supported housing centers and the Salvation Army.

And for the vegetarians, there was also a mitzvah day “Spinach, Yogurt and Walnut soup” option being cooked up – a recipe contributed by Master Chef winner Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed. The Jewish Vegetarian Society, not to be outdone, also came up with a vegan chicken soup option.

“In that chicken soup for Jews symbolizes nurturing and home, the idea here is to share those values with everyone,” said Laura Marks, founder of Mitzvah Day.

Now living in London, Marks got the idea for creating Mitzvah Day when she and her family were living in Hollywood, California a decade ago. The U.K.-based charity began as a day of social action with a handful of projects. Ten years later, it has become a movement with close to 40,000 volunteers from 450 different communities around the country.

Mitzvah Days has an additional 30 spinoff mitzvah days in other countries, participating in events as diverse as hosting teas for refugees, cleaning cemeteries, planning singalongs in old age homes, and, of course, spreading chicken soup love.

Laura Marks, Mitzvah Day founder with a volunteer, November 18, 2018. Credit: Yakid Zur

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage

Flame and smoke rise during an Israeli air strike, amid Israel-Gaza fighting, in Gaza City August 6, 2022.

Israel Should End Gaza Operation Now, if It Can

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Karolina Bielowka.

'My Uncle Told Me, ‘Go on the Trip of Your Life, Go Dig in Israel.’ So I Did'

The replica ship, 'Ma’agan Mikhael II,' sailing from Haifa to Acre in northern Israel.

Replica of 2,400-year-old Ship Solves Ancient Mediterranean Mystery

File photo: Bus operated by Kavim company.

Ultra-Orthodox Extremists Assault Woman for Sitting at Front of Jerusalem Bus