Gaza adds poignancy to candlelit memorial

By Daniel Easterman, August 7, 2014
Bevis Marks' candlelit commemoration

Bevis Marks' candlelit commemoration

Jewish leaders and former soldiers gathered for a candlelit service on Monday to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.

The event, jointly organised by the Board of Deputies2014-08-07 17:39:18 +0100, was part of the national "Lights Out" campaign, which called on people to switch off their lights in unison to mark the moment Britain entered the Great War in 1914.

The anniversary fell on the same evening as Tisha B'Av, the date for mourning the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish people.

For an hour from 10pm, the lights in Bevis Marks Synagogue were extinguished, leaving the congregation to daven by candlelight. Some used the torches from their mobile phones to read the prayers and lamentations.

After the service, members of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex) and the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade (JLGB) carried flags and banners through the synagogue's main aisle to remember the fallen.

Bugler Jeffrey Rees plays The Last Post at the Jewish Museum on Sunday

Bugler Jeffrey Rees plays The Last Post at the Jewish Museum on Sunday

In his address, Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the new senior rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregations, said the war been a transforming moment in history. "It thrust us into a completely new world. It was not only the great disaster of the 20th century, it also set into motion many other disasters that followed in its wake," he said.

Extracts from war poems, diaries and letters from Jewish soldiers were read out and Gillian Merron gave an address in one of her first appearances as Board's chief executive.

Lawrence Brass, treasurer of the Board, said he had been almost moved to tears by the service. "It had a particular poignancy in view of what is going on in the world today. A hundred years on the tragedy is we haven't learnt the lessons of the First World War. But we must keep trying. We still haven't learnt to live together in peace - particularly in the Middle East.

Ajex member Nicholas Coral agreed that lessons had not been learned. "We have to guard against the preaching of hate. There can be no peace in Israel and Palestine while hate is being propagated."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined around 100 people at a commemoration at the Jewish Museum in London on Sunday. The event was co-organised by the United Synagogue, Ajex and the Jewish Military Museum.

Last updated: 6:45pm, August 7 2014