Should there be a uniquely Jewish way of marking Remembrance Sunday?
Rabbi Julia Neuberger says…
At West London Synagogue, we hold a very moving service on Remembrance Shabbat – the nearest Shabbat to Remembrance Sunday.
Most of it is our regular service. But we have Ajex standard bearers, and after reading the list of our members who gave their lives in the world wars we hear the Last Post. Some of our older members wear their medals, and I try to preach on a related theme.
That might be about poppies, or how we remember those who died fighting for Germany in World War One, as is the case for many Jews of German refugee origins. This is both Jewish and universal. We name our own dead but stand in silence remembering all who died.
We say our own prayers, but include in them those who were not Jewish. There is nothing in the service that makes it particular only to Jews. We include everyone in our thoughts, in our El Male Rachmim and in our Kaddish. And that’s as it should be.
I rarely get to the end of this service without shedding a tear. I am not alone. It is remembering universally, but in the Jewish style. And, in our somewhat formal synagogue service, it feels just right.
• Baroness Julia Neuberger is rabbi of West London Synagogue
Alex Fenton says…
We Jews are experts at commemorating and remembering, and have much in common with the very British traditions surrounding Remembrance Day.
When we say the Kaddish, we look towards each other and our communities. We do this to remember those we knew, and who we miss, but also to remember those whom we never knew, and who have no one to say Kaddish for them.
It is a similar aspect of Remembrance Day that I found so moving, and so important, when I worked as public affairs manager for the Royal British Legion.
Every year I remember with gratitude people whom I never met, and never can, who gave their lives in order to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy today. We are privileged that our communal leaders, like Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, can be there, at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, to show the debt of gratitude our community feels it owes.
That is exactly how it should be – different communities, religions, those from all different walks of life. Remembrance Sunday is the perfect opportunity to come together to remember, and to thank, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in years gone by.
• Alex is MRJ’s public affairs adviser, on secondment from the Linnell Trust
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