Remembrance Day (11th November) is more important than ever this year, given the current situation in Israel. We spoke with Marin Newman, former National Chairman of AJEX, to find out more.
AJEX, The Jewish Military Association, is an organisation committed to preserving the memory of the 120,000 Jews who served in the armed forces during both World Wars. The association has three main aims: to continue remembrance of the Jewish contribution to the military; to combat antisemitism through education; and to provide welfare for Jewish veterans and their families.
Martin Newman, ex-National Chairman of AJEX, explained how the organisation’s objectives have transformed over the years: “AJEX has actually changed somewhat since I was National Chairman. It’s shifted objectives slightly. It is still an organisation which is there to support veterans of all conflicts, but it has now become more educational. It’s more involved with telling the story about what Jews have done historically, within the British Armed Forces. Though obviously it still retains its objective of providing welfare services for veterans who have actually served. And that’s not just in the Second World War, but in conflicts right up to present day.”
AJEX’s mission is an important one, as Martin highlights: “It’s particularly important, especially these days, with antisemitism growing. We’re getting people using this old trope again, – which we thought had died off, but it’s reemerging – that Jews have dual loyalty and don’t serve this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have a record that Jews served in disproportionately high numbers in the British Armed Forces, and that continues right up to present day. For example, during the Second World War we had 65,000 Jews serve.”
The Jewish community in Manchester has had more than its fair share of servicemen and women: “The Jewish community has done its bit and paid the price. In the First World War alone, there were five Victoria Crosses won by Jews, a few with Manchester connections. One, Jack White, has both a Manchester and Leeds connection, as he was born in Leeds and moved to Manchester, and his family still live here.”
Remembrance Day on 11th November is a day focused on those who have been lost to war. Every year, AJEX holds a parade in London the week after this date. These events and services allow us to recognise
the sacrifices of the fallen and keep their memories alive throughout generations: “We believe it’s important that people – particularly young people – realise what the members of their families that came before them actually did, and how many of them made the sacrifice. And interestingly now, we actually have a Jewish cadet unit as well, at the JFS in London. So we have youngsters who are showing an interest and keeping the memory alive. I’ve very proud to be their honorary Colonel. They’re a set of very enthusiastic boys and girls. They’re not soldiers, they’re part of the cadet force, but they’re still very proud to wear a British uniform.”