Monday, August 31, 2015

Meet the Hasidic-slogan-tagging Jew fighting in Syria 

His story is truly something out a movie: He has spent the last six months fighting alongside the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) against ISIS in Syria. He has tagged every house he has liberated with the Hasidic saying Na Nach Nachman, in order to –  as he calls it –  "Bring some light into the darkness."
In one of his more popular posts on social media, he posted a picture of a building he and his comrades had liberated, saying: "ISIS turned this school, 50 km from their capital in Raqqa, into a prison. I was part of horrible fighting in the area, my friends and I fended ISIS off when they tried to recapture the prison from the next village."
The post continued, "ISIS left women's clothes and underwear on the floors of the cells, a lot of it, evidence of unholy crimes. I wrote Rabbi Nachman's name here to bring some light in to this black sink hole of torture, rape, murder and savage war. Amen."
But Jacobs-Wordsworth's story did not start in Syria. The 37-year-old is a British citizen, and the grandson of a holocaust survivor who made it out of Dachau after losing his mother in Auschwitz, and his father at Theresienstadt. "My grandfather converted to Christianity, and I grew up as a Christian," he says.
Although his grandfather passed at the age of 96, Jacobs says he "always knew he was from a Jewish family, and heard stories about my holocaust survivor grandfather. My mom is a Zionist, and she taught me to love Israel and hate cruelty. She always told me the due to the suffering incurred by the Jews and my family during the Holocaust, made me feel physically ill."

Jacobs Wordsworth did two central things with the education he received growing up: He joined the British army in order to fight against evil, and travelled to Israel with the goal of live here.
"I wanted to help the people of Bosnia, whom I saw as undergoing another sort of holocaust and genocide," he says. "That's why I joined the British army in 1996, and served several years in the British forces under NATO in Bosnia and Kosovo."
10 years ago he made his dream a reality and visited Israel, believing he could become an Israeli citizen without too much fuss, however things didn't work out like he planned: "I asked for Israeli citizenship, but I was deported from Israel in 2005 because my visa had expired," he says. "Because I grew up as a Christian in a Christian family, I couldn't make aliyah through the law of return, although with god's blessing I will be able to return to Israel this year, because my 10 year entrance ban expires soon."
During his stay in Israel, he was exposed to Breslov Hasidism – and immediately fell in love. "I saw Nachman Hassids dancing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but it was an Orthodox friend in London who convinced me to travel with him to Uman. It was during Rosh Hashana in 2012, and since then I have been to Uman three times."
In the meantime he got married, and joined the Kurdish forces battling against ISIS in Syria. "I got to them through a Facebook page called the 'Lions of Rojava,' which helps smuggle international volunteers into Syria, most of whom are former soldiers from the Kurdish forces in northern Iraq," he says.
"I fought in Syria for six months, and I wrote Rabbi Nachman's name in a bunch of places where we beat ISIS," he added. "I have met Jewish soldiers with strong Jewish roots from around the world among us here."
Jacobs-Wordsworth tends to close every sentence with "Am Israel Chai," and Rabbi Nachman from Uman stars in many of his Facebook posts. But he does admit that his beliefs are somewhat complex: "I believe that there were two messiahs, as it is written in the Talmud: The messiah Ben Yossef, and the messiah Ben David. I believe that Ben Yossef was already here, and his name was Jesus. I believe that the messiah Ben David will come soon.
"I plan on filling a request to make Aliyah again," Jacobs-Wordsworth says, and adds that he has undergone a Reform Judaism conversion in London a few years ago. "I am a member of the North Western Reform Synagogue in London," he said.
In November of last year, Gill Rosenberg , who made aliyah from Canada in 2006, made her way to fight with the YPG in Syria. She returned safely to Israel earlier this year, but it was reported that she was in Iraq this week.

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