Teacher’s tribute to Great War fallen heroes
A Jewish woman has completed a personal mission to record the last resting places of almost 3,000 Jewish soldiers who died in battle during the First World War.
Ruth Morris, an English teacher from Leeds, has spent the past two years painstakingly cross-referencing the names of fallen heroes listed in the British Jewry Book of Honour with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The result is an 11-volume series — called Their Names Live For Evermore — that lists, for the first time, the specific cemeteries or memorial sites of each known Jewish soldier who was killed.
Ms Morris, 27, was inspired to carry out the research when she accompanied her GCSE students at Harrogate Ladies’ College on a trip to Belgium and northern France to visit the battlefields of the Great War.
“We were in a very small cemetery in Mametz, near the Somme,” Ms Morris said. “There was one grave distanced from everyone else, so I went over and saw it had a Magen Dovid on it.
“It got me wondering how many Jewish casualties there were. As soon as I got home, I started looking into it and it grew from there.”
With the help of her family — as well as members of her synagogue, Sinai Leeds — Ms Morris sifted through 665 memorials and cemeteries in Belgium and France to create a comprehensive record. Alongside the names of the soldiers, she added information about each resting place, as well as other facts to “contextualise what happened and make it reader-friendly.”
The books have been published online, to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of the war in 1914, and Ms Morris is now hoping for funding from the Jewish Historical Society to produce a separate print edition.
“I think there is a broad misconception that the majority of Jews came over during the Second World War, whereas in fact a lot of people were already here defending their country,” she said.
Ms Morris said she hoped the books would encourage more people to visit the battlefields.
“Now that there are no more survivors remaining, it is more important than ever to keep the memory of the Jewish contribution alive.”
‘Their Names Live For Evermore’ is published online by BJM publishing