Servicemen call on army of helpers

February 5, 2009

The charitable arm of the Jewish Committee for HM Forces is relaunching on the back of a continuing increase in the number of Jews in the services.

Now known as the Friends of Jewish Servicemen and Women, the charity has raised funds to support chaplaincy services and a magazine to keep personnel abreast of wider community and faith issues.

Martin Newman — vice-chairman of the forces committee and a trustee of the charity — estimates the total number of serving Jews to be “in the low hundreds. They are spread across the forces, although the majority are in the Army. Those who go in tend to be successful. A very high proportion are in commissioned ranks”.

Factors behind the rise are that “people are beginning to realise that it’s a good professional career” and the military’s greater understanding of the religious requirements of Jewish personnel.

“Being a minority faith in the armed forces can be difficult,” Mr Newman acknowledged. “The fact that people register as Jews when they enlist means they are proud of their religion and want to be identified. And we believe we have an obligation to help them retain their faith and culture.”

Service personnel, family members and guests at the annual retreat

Service personnel, family members and guests at the annual retreat

He sees the role of the charity as to provide resources which are not covered by Ministry of Defence funding. “This includes care parcels and food for holy days and meeting other religious requirements. We organise retreats and endeavour to support their families when they are on operations.”

Sixty people were at the over-subscribed annual retreat for Jewish service personnel and their families in Amport, Hampshire, last month.

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Last updated: 11:28am, February 5 2009