Every year that passes removes us further from the deafening, muddy, piercing, chaotic reality of European warfare our British-Jewish forebears waged for the Allies during the great wars of the 20th century.
We, with our iPads and padded toilet paper, know only that they weren’t great at all.
Every year, the country is asked to freely attend a Sunday event, to show our appreciation to those who died giving us that freedom, and every year, the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) has to convince people to go along, honour and learn.
For instance, this Sunday marks 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele, where dozens of our boys died trying to secure a series of ridges south-east of the Belgian city of Ypres.
Among them was 19-year-old Coleman Benjamin from Birmingham, a member of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and one of five children of Esther and Lewis. Another to fall at Ypres was Australian Jew Joseph Cohen. Fighting a long way from home, his death left wife Rose Ellen and baby son Abraham on their own back in Victoria.
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Jews weren’t just foot soldiers. They helped in every element of the war effort. Still to this day, few know about the brave Jewish women, such as Hannah Szenes or Haviva Reik, who were working for the wartime precursor of MI6, parachuted into occupied Europe behind enemy lines.
The details and photos of these, and other often unsung heroes, can be found online at websites such as jewsfww.london. Ten minutes’ reading and you’ll realise why we all need to be at the AJEX Parade this Sunday.
However we chose to commemorate, be it standing at the Cenotaph, with prayers in synagogue or simply in quiet reflection in the comfort of our own homes, let each of us pledge to remember the sacrifices and learn the lessons.