Church of England will allow Star of David in churchyard after family of Jewish war hero discover he was accidentally buried under Christian cross

Olivia Rudgard
Commonwealth War Graves can have a cross or star of David. Image is of the First World War centenary commemorative event at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Thiepval Memorial to the Missing - Geoff Pugh

The Church of England has allowed the churchyard grave of a Jewish Second World War hero to be marked with a Star of David almost 80 years after he died.

In a case thought to be the first of its kind, official permission has been given for the crucifix on the grave of Pilot Officer Harold Rosofsky to be removed and replaced with the Jewish symbol, even though he is buried in a consecrated Anglican churchyard.

South African Pilot Officer Harold Rosofsky, 26, was among the first Jewish airmen to be killed in the war when his plane came down over Suffolk on September 8, 1939. 

The Royal Air Force arranged his burial, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was unable to contact his family to ask how he wanted to be remembered. 

He received a standard Christian gravestone with a cross emblem, in the churchyard of All Saints & St Andrew, Honington with Sapiston.

His grave was only rediscovered by his family in 2012, and his sister's niece Jennifer Hoffmann contacted the War Graves Commission to ask that the grave be changed to a Jewish symbol. 

In her letter Ms Hoffman said that her whole family had been buried in Jewish cemeteries and it “seems wrong that he has a cross on his grave”.

David Etherington, Q.C, Chancellor of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, said that an exception should be made to the general rule that non-Christian images on monuments should not be allowed in churchyards.

Mr Rosofsky was worthy of "admiration and respect" for his bravery, he added, and his status as one of the first Jewish airmen to die in the war meant these were “exceptional circumstances”. 

A spokesman for the War Graves Commission said: "As time has gone on, descendants of those who have passed wish to either see a particular religious symbol on the stone or for the cross to be changed.

"However, we have to respect the wishes of the original family members, many of which were parents, and if we have files of the original request, we cannot change the headstone.

"But if there is no religious symbol, or it is incorrect, there were no requests from original family members and the descendants can prove the religion, the CWGC are more than happy to change the headstone."

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