THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents

Jews in the Military
Jews Worshipping Amid Din of Battle in War-Torn Europe
 


Franco-Prussian War Scene Probably Re-enacted as Hebrews in Rival Armies Observe Religious Holiday

From an article in Philadelphia's Evening Ledger, dated 21 Sep 1914.
 

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JEWISH SOLDIERS HOLDING NEW YEAR'S SERVICE ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Nearly half a million Jewish soldiers, the largest number under arms since the children of Israel ceased
to be a nation, laid aside their weapons of war today to observe Rosh Hashana, or the New Year's Day.
The above picture shows Day of Atonement services held by the Jewish soldiers in the German army during
the Franco-Prussian War, and presents a scene that is being enacted in the rival armies of Europe today.

An incident of the Franco-Prussian War that has become famous through copies of a picture which adorns the walls of hundreds of Jewish homes in this city is probably being re-enacted today on the battlefields of Europe. This picture portrays the Jewish soldiers of the German army holding religious services before Metz, in 1870, while the Prussians were advancing on Paris.

Among a half million soldiers engaged in the gigantic European military struggle will lay aside their weapons of war today to observe Rosh Hashana, or the New Year's Day, the first of the great autumn holidays.

The picture of the Day of the Day of Atonement services in the Franco-Prussian War has been so widely circulated that it is familiar to every Jew. It shows the Jewish soldiers gathered around a huge altar, saying the prayers prescribed for the occasion. Many of them are wearing over their uniforms the talith, a shawl, used in the synagogue by all orthodox Jews. In the background are shown cannon, sending forth their missiles of destruction into the ranks of the enemy. Over the picture is the inscription, in German: "Have we not all one Father? Were we not all created by the same God?"

Today, amid the roar and the rumble of cannon, perhaps while shot and shell are whistling through the air, the high holiday, sacred in every one of the Hebrew faith, will be observed. The position of the armies, with their battle lines stretched over many miles, will make it impossible to hold one big religious ceremony, but doubtless there will be scores of small services held along the fighting lines.

It is expected, in view of the conciliatory attitude taken in the Russian Government toward the Jews since the outbreak of the war, that permission will be granted these men to rest for a brief spell from the bloody business of war to worship God according to the dictates of their religion. The Russian military authorities appear appreciative of the loyal support of the Jews, and for the first time in the history of Russia, Jews have been granted commissions as officers. Following the battles at Lemberg many Hebrews were commended for their gallantry and several hundred were appointed officers. These men, now engaged in the campaigns against Austria and Germany, will no doubt be the leading spirits in the holding of the religious ceremonies.

In the armies of Austria, France and England there are many thousands of Jews. The English soldiers at home have been granted a furlough to spend Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) with their families. Special provisions have been made for the soldiers in the field to observe these holidays.

The French are likewise said to be appreciative of the services rendered by the Jews. Hundreds have lost their lives, and a recent report from Paris stated that the Chief Rabbi of Lyons, M. A. Bloch, a volunteer helper, was killed by the enemy near Saint Die. Major Alfred Dreyfus is among the French Hebrews now fighting for their country.

The Chief Rabbi of England has issued an appeal to Jews of the Kingdom to respond to the call to arms. "Once more we will prove that the old Maccabean spirit is still alive in us," he says. "We will offer our lives to defend Great Britain's ideals of justice and humanity. In even larger number will we continue to join the army of our King. Be strong and of good courage. The God or righteousness is with us. He will guard our going out and our coming in."

The Day of Atonement follows ten days after the beginning of the New Year. It is customary for Jews to fast on this day, and the majority of the soldiers in the European armies will do without food for 24 hours, despite the physical strain that they are now being forced to undergo.
 

 
 


 



 

 


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