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Serving Jewish personnel remember those who served the country with distinction

29 November 2016
A young Air Force cadet salutes recently-retired Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford in front of the Whitehall Cenotaph.

This is the act of thanksgiving for Jews who have served this country and, when necessary, died for it.

A week on from November ceremonies and the same location is the setting for the annual parade by the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, joined by Jews serving in today’s Armed Forces.

For the 2016 ceremony, around 1,000 men and women, plus the band of the Coldstream Guards, took to London’s streets, with the air chief marshal taking the salute after participants had placed wreaths at the foot of the Cenotaph.

It is an excellent opportunity to remind both the British Jewish community and the broader public that Jews have served in the Armed Forces for more than 350 years and continue to do so with distinction.

Cdr Daniel Weil RN

Like the monument to the fallen, the Jewish act of remembrance dates to the 1920s and generally follows the format of the national parade/ceremony the previous weekend.

Where it differs, however, is the presence of a religious element in the form of prayers and hymns, largely absent from other Armistice Day commemorations, led by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, the Principal Jewish Chaplain to HM Forces (and a Major (Chaplain) in the Army Reserve).

“To hear the Jewish mourner’s prayer (the Kaddish) and a traditional Synagogue hymn in Hebrew, with music provided by the Band of the Coldstream Guards, in the centre of power of a major world democracy is both haunting and powerful,” said Cdr Daniel Weil, diversity lead for the Armed Forces Jewish Community which acts as the network representing serving regular and reserve Jews.

“It is a timely reminder that the UK is an extremely diverse country, made up of different communities who integrate effectively to make society vibrant, colourful and welcoming; and for the Jewish community, who turns out in large numbers to witness the Parade, of their debt both to their ancestors who served and of their continuing direct personal close links with the British Armed Forces.

“As always, it’s a poignant time when we can remember our fallen comrades and those currently on operations but it is also an excellent opportunity to remind both the British Jewish community and the broader public that Jews have served in the Armed Forces for more than 350 years and continue to do so with distinction and significantly in disproportion to the size of the community in the UK.”

Members of the Jewish faith have served the Navy and nation with distinction for three and a half centuries, from Capt Alexander Schomberg, who fought in a succession of battles with the French in the 1750s, through WW2 submariner and VC winner ‘Nat’ Gould, Capt Fredman Ashe Lincoln who was a minewarfare expert, commando in the Mediterranean and Germany, and one of the country’s senior lawyers after the war, and wartime Wren Teresa ‘Terry’ Susskind who worked with computer genius Alan Turing in cracking German Enigma codes.

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