Despite the fact that the Jewish community is long-established and increasingly diverse, many still find the concept of a Jewish army officer a novel one. However, Captain Louis Trup of the Royal Engineers and Deputy for the Armed Forces Jewish Community is eager to dispel any such notions.
Louis points to the act that Jewish involvement in the British armed forces goes back some 300 years. He adds: “There is a definite sense of purpose to military service. As British Jews, we owe a lot to this country and it’s important that we should serve. It also involves leadership and working with lots of different people, often in arduous conditions, to achieve a goal and I wanted to take on that challenge. I loved being part of a Jewish youth movement and Jewish leadership growing up and I took that with me into the army.
Hi army career has taken Louis to some far-flung countries including Morocco, Poland, Germany and South Sudan. He has served with the Gurkhas and has participated in changing the guard outside Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, the Tower of London and St James’s Palace.
He finds the army a more diverse place than some would imagine. “You have people who left school at 16 and others with PhDs. At Sandhurst, where I trained, there were officer cadets from America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Lebanon and many other different countries. You find that you become very connected with each other.”
He became involved with the Board of Deputies long before he joined the army. As a student he represented BBYO a decade ago and when he joined the Armed Forces Jewish Community he realised that they no longer had a Deputy – so he volunteered for the position.
During his time as a Deputy, Louis has worked with the Communities and Education Division. “We work closely with AJEX, in particular supporting education about Jewish involvement in the armed forces and that long history of involvement.” He also sits on a SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education).
Louis also emphasises that, by its very nature, the Armed Forces Jewish Community is regional in its make-up. “I’m based in Chatham in Kent and have most recently been posted to Saffron Walden. We’ve got people posted in Scotland and Northern Ireland, in fact all over the country and all over the world. This works both ways, in that we can support the Board with its work with small communities, but also the Board supports us.”
Has he always felt welcomed as Jew in the army? The answer is an emphatic yes. “I get a lot of questions about what it’s like to be Jewish, and I’m more than happy to answer them. People are really inquisitive in a very positive way. We have kosher ration packs. We have a special siddur which issued to members of His Majesty’s armed forces. We also have a Jewish Chaplain and chaplaincy team. So we’re well looked after.”
Of course, being such a small minority in the army, there will occasionally difficulties in observing festivals. But Louis sees these as a challenge. “I was stationed in Poland at Chanukah and we managed to get the Gurkha chefs to make doughnuts for everyone there – we had over 120 people from different NATO countries coming together to celebrate with us. And so even though maybe they weren’t Jewish and didn’t necessarily get it, it was still pretty amazing to share it with other people.
“I’ve been to synagogues all over the world and have had really amazing experiences which show how welcoming the Jewish community is wherever you are.”
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