You’ve probably seen from my comment on your site [hadn’t seen it yet] that the info in the Jewish Chronicle was factually incorrect and misleading but it did bring in a great response to the ad for the new padre.
We have had full and part time Jewish chaplains since 1892! For the past 15 years we have had a volunteer part time retired RAF chaplain who stayed on with the support of the Chief Rabbi – without consultation with the troops or the endorsing authority. Not the fault of the services or the Ministry of Defence.
In 35 years in uniform I have never encountered any anti-Semitism! The main reason for people not identifying was because they were not affiliated in the first place – we have given them their first real taste of Judaism – and because the mainstream orthodox community here has in the past regarded the service as “not for a yiddisher boy or girl.” Consequently there has been a stigma attached.
If you can let me have an email address I will be have to let you have copies of Menorah (our Armed Forces Jewish Community magazine) which I’m sure will give you a different outlook.
I’m glad to see that our news is reaching over the Pond. Unfortunately the Jewish Chronicle article was factually incorrect and misleading. We’ve had commissioned Jewish Chaplains since 1892, the longest serving other than Anglican.
American veterans will know that there were a large number of British Jewish chaplains serving in the Army and RAF during both world wars and until the end of conscription.
For the past 15 years this job has been done by a retired Royal Air Force Chaplain as a volunteer, at his own request and funded by the endorsing authority. We were offered a full time replacement by the Ministry of Defence [MoD} but the offer was turned down by our Chief Rabbi’s office, I believe, without consultation with the serving personnel. We, as the endorsing authority, decided it was time to regularise the situation and MoD retained the funding and has now released this to appoint a new fulltime padre. We have also just commissioned a Territorial Army (same as National Guard) Rabbi.
While our numbers are in the low hundreds our military Jewish community is vibrant, very active and steadily growing.
Being relatively small (remember our armed forces are smaller than those of the USA) it’s easier for us to keep in touch on a regular basis. Irrespective of rank (and we have a disproportionate number of senior officers) we treat the group as an extended family who are proud of their British and Jewish identities.
Any inference that we do not identify with our Jewishness or do not receive the support of the MoD or the single services is totally incorrect. And if you don’t believe me you just have to ask my American wife – now a real British colonel’s lady!!
Please don’t worry about Jews in Her Majesty’s Forces. We’re thriving.
Colonel Martin Newman DL
Vice Chairman – Jewish Committee for HM Forces
There you have the story straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Yet if you read the above carefully, there are some interesting points, such as the Chief Rabbi’s office turning down the initial request by the Ministry of Defence [British spelling] for a full-time Jewish chaplain. I hope Colonel Newman will give us an update when the new U.K. chaplain for Her Majesty’s Forces has come on board.
(The photo above is of U.K. Jewish military personnel attending a weekend conference this winter.)