Melava Malka with Rabbi Major Reuven Livingstone

With only approximately three week’s notice that Rabbi Major Reuven Livingstone was able to come to Ruislip Synagogue to speak to us, there were over sixty people who wanted to attend.

T he organization of the whole event from the meal to the seating plans was in itself carried out like a military drill.

Samuel Davis, the youngest attendant of the evening, kindly played on his keyboard to welcome everyone to the special event. During the meal he again entertained us with some pleasant melodies, including, of course, If I were a rich man, many joined in singing and clapping.

When we were all seated Mike Briskman welcomed and thanked Rabbi Major Reuven and his wife for taking the time to come to visit the congregation at Ruislip Shul .

Rabbi Stanley Coten then reiterated the welcome to the guests and mentioned that he had known Reuven for many years as they both attended the same school in Ilford. They had met up on occasions since then and recently met at Norwood, where Rabbi Stanley Coten is the visiting Rabbi.

After these introductions a very tasteful meal of poached salmon and vegetables, a dessert of fruit jelly and ice cream, tea, coffee and cakes.

Rabbi Major Reuven Livingstone, who even out of his uniform, definitely had a military bearing, began his talk. The theme being The Unlikely Warrior: Jewish soldiers, sailors and airmen.

He gave us a very detailed account of how Jewish men and women over the centuries were in the armed forces even during Roman times. In fact for a Jew to enlist in Roman times was a good way to fast track after serving his country. In more recent times in the WW1, considering the small amount of Jews who lived in the UK, the percentage that volunteered was remarkably high and there were even three battalions, who eventually merged. Then in WW2 again the percentage was high amongst volunteers and of course, during conscription.

In the Forces there is little anti-Semitism amongst the service men themselves as the Jewish forces proved themselves to be equals and brave.

He, himself, had been trained at Sandhurst, where he did have to put up with a lot of friendly ribbing regarding his beard. The basic training was very grueling, but all necessary. He recalled that one of the aspects of the training was to be driven inside an army vehicle with others and taken over very uneven terrain including steep crevices which made one actually feel seasick, nevertheless this was all essential training for events in the future.

Although there were a high percentage of Jewish servicemen who declared their religion, there were many who did not want to divulge the fact for many reasons, but he even got to known many of these service people too, as when he is in uniform there is a Magen David as part of the decoration on his cap, and undeclared Jews would then approach him.

Rabbi Major Reuven then spoke of the present day standing of Jews in the forces. He said that there are many serving world wide in the British forces. He mentioned many could learn a trade or profession whilst serving which would be of much use to them when they were demobbed.

He then invited questions from the floor and several interesting questions were asked including one from a young man who asked if Robots would ever replace armed forces, Rabbi Major Reuven did not think so in our time.

The meeting concluded at 10.30pm.

Both Rabbi Stanley Coten and Mike Briskman gave their thanks on behalf of the shul for a very interesting and enlightening evening.

Many thanks must also go to all those who helped with security.