MP Eric Pickles helps out at St Albans Mitzvah

TORY MP Eric Pickles showed his green credentials at the weekend when he visited St Albans to take part in a planting ceremony.

The politician, Secretary of State for communities and local government, picked up a spade to help plant a hedge at Verulamium Park on Sunday.

He was in the city at the invitation of St Albans Masorti Synagogue (SAMS), which organised various activities for the annual Mitzvah Day, a Jewish-led day of social action.

Other events included a litter pick, baking sessions for the local Women’s Refuge and tree planting in Heartwood Forest.

The MP was at the multi-faith hedge planting for about an hour while visiting the district.

Meanwhile, St Albans United Synagogue, on Oswald Road, invited neighbours to an afternoon tea on Sunday, held to thank residents for their understanding.

A spokeswoman explained that Mitzvah Day encourages volunteers to give their time rather than money, with the aim of reducing hardship and poverty and helping the environment.

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Because St Albans Synagogue is located in a narrow residential cul-de-sac, near the station in the heart of the city, members were anxious to maintain good relations with non-Jewish neighbours who, a spokeswoman said, “often confess themselves puzzled as to what might be going on behind the synagogue doors”.

She added: “In a bid to answer all their questions and as a ‘thank you for putting up with us’ congregation members invited all their neighbours to tea on the afternoon of Mitzvah Day.”

Visitors were also shown displays explaining Jewish rituals and festivals.

The synagogue was opened in 1951.