HM Forces personnel share experiences

A Torah scroll discovered at a defunct army synagogue and rededicated in memory of a Jewish soldier killed in Afghanistan has been used for the first time.

Lieutenant Paul Mervis of Second Battalion the Rifles died in an explosion while trying to protect his platoon during a foot patrol in northern Helmand province in June 2009.

On Saturday, his father Jonathan was called up to the Torah during a service at a chaplaincy weekend organised by the Jewish Committee for HM Forces.

Mr Mervis and his wife, Margaret, sponsored the scroll’s refurbishment in memory of their son.

Almost 60 Jewish service personnel and their families used the weekend — held at the armed forces chaplaincy centre in Andover, Hampshire — to discuss issues in service life which are of specific interest to them as Jews.

They heard lectures on the relationship between Islam and Judaism, took part in a traditional erev Shabbat dinner and the following evening enjoyed a mess dinner, attended by Lord Sterling, president of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex).

Committee member Robert Bieber, who is also vice-chairman of the Combat Stress charity which helps veterans who suffer from psychological difficulties, also spoke at the weekend.

Colonel Martin Newman, chairman of the committee, said it had been the most successful weekend of its type for a number of years.

“It is an opportunity to give people who are serving all over the world an injection of Judaism and a Shabbat experience. It was fantastic,” he said.

Last updated: 8:45pm, January 10 2013