Commonwealth Day 2019

Commonwealth Day, held on the second Monday in March each year, is an opportunity for individuals, communities and organisations to promote the Commonwealth’s shared values of peace, democracy and equality, and to celebrate the association’s rich diversity. This year Commonwealth Day 2019 also marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development, which is both inclusive and sustainable. The afternoon service takes place in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and other members of the Royal Family, senior politicians, High Commissioners, Commonwealth dignitaries and over 1,000 young people, with approximately 2,000 people attending in total. Please join the celebrations by sharing your messages, photos and videos with the hashtag #CommonwealthDay andConnectedCommonwealth.

Highest Ranking Jew in Indian Army Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael dies aged 92

One of the most prominent members of India’s Jewish community died Wednesday 13 January 2016 after a short illness. Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob had a successful career in India’s military, and his body was held in state at Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment before a funeral took place at Judah Hyam Synagogue in Delhi. A reception to honour Jacob was attended by all 3 chiefs of the Indian Army,the Minister of Defence, the former President of India, ambassadors and 13 regiments.  

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon said that Jacob was a staunch supporter of India-Israel relations and “shall forever be remembered as a human bridge between our peoples.”

Jacob was inspired by the plight of Jews in Europe to join what was then the British Indian army in 1942. His family had settled in India from Iraq in the 18th Century. 

Jamaica community works to restore cemeteries

The Jewish community of Jamaica started a programme of cemetery restoration and cataloguing with the cleaning up of the Hunt’s Bay Cemetery 9 years ago. This, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Jamaica which served the Jews who first settled in Port Royal after the capture of the island by the English in 1655-58. The earliest graves date from 1672.

Up until now, the community has almost completed the revised cataloguing of all the Jewish graves in the remaining 12 Jewish cemeteries island-wide. This has been undertaken with volunteers, headed by Rachel Frankel, through the Caribbean Volunteers Expedition program. The community has 15 volunteers working as of today on two cemeteries, Orange Street and Elletson Road.

The White Church Street Cemetery will be catalogued next year. This will be undertaken on completion of its restoration. Updates will follow.

​Reenergised Commonwealth Jewish Council holds reception at Lords

In the presence of communal leaders and its new President Lord Mendelsohn, the Commonwealth Jewish Council held a reception at the House of Lords on Thursday 19 November to mark the launch of its new publication ‘Shared values, common causes’. The reception took place as the organisation continues its restructuring which will see a greater regional focus with an emphasis on supporting small communities throughout the Commonwealth.

Guests including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Senior Rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of the the S&P Sephardi Community Joseph Dweck, Acting Israeli Ambassador Eitan Na’eh and Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush gathered to hear from the CJC’s CEO Clive Lawton as he set out his vision for a reenergised organisation focused on small communities and an enhanced network of English speaking Jewish diplomats from existing member organisations. To mark the occasion, CJC trustee Laura Marks OBE presented an award to George and Lyn Walton from the Cayman Islands who have built a synagogue for the benefit of their small community.

Another example of the work the CJC aims to support is a Mitzvah Day give-blood drive in Jerusalem with Magen David Adom, bringing together gap year students from three of the Commonwealth’s largest communities, Britain, Australia and Canada with UK Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey.

President Lord Mendelsohn said: “I’m delighted that the Commonwealth Jewish Council has now been strengthened with regional leadership from the great communities of Australia, Canada, South Africa and the UK. As well as being able to harness the talents of professional staff in our member organisations, we will also benefit from the fantastic quality and reach of our Executive Board of Regional Presidents, including Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies.

Our award recipients, Lyn and George, exemplify the best of community leadership – building a Synagogue and vital community infrastructure – and it is in small communities like these where we can have a real impact. In the diaspora we will also be able to articulate our unique voice as Jewish communities spanning the 53 countries of the Commonwealth which share common values as outlined in our new publication.”

CEO Clive Lawton said “I’ve long been involved with the CJC and its wonderful to see the ready enthusiasm with which communities around the world have embraced our new enhanced vision of a rich network of communities, some infinitesimally tiny, some many hundreds of thousands, learning from each other, supporting each other, sharing good ideas and enriching our capacity to give to the wider world. Writing our new publication ‘Shared Values, Common Causes’ revealed to me how much there is to do and how much we can do together.”

Headed by President Lord Mendelsohn and trustees Nigel Cohen and Laura Marks OBE, the CJC’s European Regional President is Jonathan Arkush. CEO Clive Lawton heads a team of directors including Maureen Gold and Regional Director for Europe, David Walsh. More details about the organisation and its activities will be available soon on the CJC’s new website. For more information, or to receive a copy of ‘Shared Values, Common Causes’, please e-mail

To see the Cayman Compass newspaper report on the award, click here

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