Desert Island Texts – My Grandfather’s Forces Prayer Book

Thinking as we come up to Remembrance Shabbat and Remembrance services at the Cenotaph again about my post last year (below) and the courage and loss of young men and women even today.

Last Shabbat I taught Wilfred Owen’s devastating poem ‘The Parable of the Old Man and the Young’ because it coincided with our Torah portion of the Binding of Isaac:


From the First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Prelude to Hope

I had a piece published in the Jewish News for their Desert Island Texts series (print version here).

Interestingly, my grandfather arranged for Rosh Hashanah services to take place in Devon, supported by a good friend and Rabbi Reinhardt (of the West London Synagogue). His commanding officer apparently told him if they were to have a ‘church’ like service then they would have to parade through the streets on the way to the service – which they duly did. Apparently my grandfather gave the sermon on Yom Kippur – but wasn’t happy with it (he was only 21). There is a lovely account of his time in the Pioneer Corps in Dr Helen Fry’s book ‘The King’s Most Loyal Enemy Aliens’.

Here’s my Desert Island text piece:

A young man in 1940, a Private in the Pioneer Corp, is issued with a “Prayer Book for Jewish Members of H.M…

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