Soldiers called up for Shabbat service

January 20, 2011
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Members of the forces, their families and special guests at the Shabbaton in Hampshire

Members of the forces, their families and special guests at the Shabbaton in Hampshire

Fifty Forces personnel and their families discussed issues of mutual interest at the annual Shabbaton for Jewish servicemen and women at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre in Hampshire.
Organised by the Jewish chaplaincy in conjunction with the Jewish Committee for HM Forces, the weekend - also known as the moral leadership course - attracted participation from those posted both in the UK and overseas.

Topics covered included halachic concessions for those in the military and Army chaplains rabbis Arnold Saunders and Reuben Livingstone conducted services.

Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Dutch reserve chaplain Rabbi Jochanan Boosman were guest speakers and a formal dinner was addressed by Army chaplain-general Stephen Robbins, a Gateshead man who is no stranger to the Jewish community.

Jewish Committee for HM Forces chair Martin Newman said the turnout included a number of first-timers, indicative of a gradual increase in the number of serving Jews.

"While most of our recruits join the Army, we do have a number of new faces in the Royal Navy and RAF. Presently we have four officer cadets at Sandhurst and a young lady undergoing officer training at Dartmouth."

In some cases, the weekend was "the only opportunity for personnel to engage in Jewish religious and cultural activity during the year. Their Judaism is the commonality that binds them as a community within the forces."

It was important to involve families in such get-togethers to discuss common difficulties - for example, living away from mainstream Jewish life.

Although availability of kosher rations was a key concern, Mr Newman said the British military was "one of the best diversity employers", endeavouring to accommodate religious observance. "With increasing pressures of operational commitments, our group events are becoming more important. They keep people in touch.

"And we are a virtual community, maintaining contact through email and a newsletter."

    Last updated: 2:34pm, January 20 2011