Five Jewish reasons to love the late, great Dame Vera Lynn

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Five Jewish reasons to love the late, great Dame Vera Lynn

In honour of Forces’ Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn, who died this morning aged 103, we compile the heimische reasons to celebrate an eternal British icon.

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Vera Lynn, a British icon
Vera Lynn, a British icon

The bandleader who made her famous

Bert Ambrose, born Benjamin Baruch Ambrose in Warsaw, 1896, was a well-known English bandleader and violinist. After forming his own, highly-acclaimed dance band in the 1930s, Ambrose went on to discover a number of new acts, including Vera Lynn, who sang with his orchestra from 1937 to 1940…leading to her meeting her Jewish husband.

A musical match!

In 1941, Lynn married Harry Lewis, a clarinetist and saxophonist, and fellow member of Ambrose’s orchestra, who she had met two years earlier. The couple moved to Finchley after the war and had a daughter, Virginia. Harry died in 1998.

Kind to the Kinder 

In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, magician and mentalist David Berglas revealed his special connection to Dame Vera, as a German-Jewish refugee. He said: “She was one of the few artists to do a show for Jewish refugee children, to bring them over before war broke out. She was singing with the Ambrose orchestra and took part in a charity show to raise funds to get them out of Germany. I thank her from the bottom of my heart – because I was one of those children.”

Music maestros

We’ll Meet Again became an iconic song of reuniting with loved ones after the war, but Dame Vera scored success with two other wartime hits: The White Cliffs of Dover, which was penned by Walter Kent and lyricist Nat Burton, born Nat Schwartz, and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, which was composed by Manning Sherwin and had lyrics by Eric Maschwitz, the son of a Jewish-Lithuanian immigrant.

Seen on screen

Dame Vera’s version of We’ll Meet Again has been frequently referenced in popular culture since it was first released in 1939 – and most recently by the Queen in her lockdown speech to the nation. But it was also most famously used in Jewish director Stanley Kubrick’s cult 1964 black comedy, Dr Strangelove, starring Peter Sellers and George C Scott.

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