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Canada’s first full time Chabad rabbi air force chaplain embraces others and is embraced by all

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Capt. Arnold Noteh Glogauer, via Zoom, in his new Halifax quarters. | Photo: Ellin Bessner

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Canadians watching the solemn military ramp ceremony at the Halifax airport in late May for downed Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey may not have noticed the officer marching in front of her coffin was wearing a kippah. 

Capt. Arnold Noteh Glogauer, the newest full time Jewish chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces, didn’t have a speaking role during the tarmac procession. Yet, as he made his very public debut on a national stage, Glogauer was also silently reciting Hebrew psalms for his fallen comrade.

“As a chaplain, to be able to play that role and demonstrate that, it was an extreme honour because I am a baby in the military,” Glogauer told TheJ.ca

Challenging New Posting

Glogauer, a Chabad rabbi and former Jewish day school principal, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 2017. This March, he completed his first chaplaincy posting in Winnipeg and, following Passover in self-isolation at his home in Thornhill, Ontario, Glogauer packed his car with coolers of kosher food and drove east.

While he expected the assignment in Halifax to be challenging, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nova Scotians were reeling from Canada’s worst mass shooting two weeks earlier after a gunman, disguised as an RCMP officer, killed 22 people.

Glogauer arrived at CFB Halifax on April 29, and immediately went into another two-week quarantine. He recalls how his new colleagues from the local chaplaincy office “schlepped everything” to his apartment. 

Then news came in about a Sikorsky helicopter crash attached to HMCS Fredericton, a Canadian frigate doing NATO training off the coast of Greece. Six crewmembers died. The victims worked at Glogauer’s new unit, 12 Wing, in nearby Shearwater.

“I could take calls, but I wasn’t able to help the way I’ve been trained to. That was very, very difficult,” he said, recalling feeling helpless in isolation while everyone else quickly mobilized to support the families.

Three days after the end of Glogauer’s quarantine on May 14, the Snowbirds crash happened.

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“Noteh was in his uniform ready to go,” recalled Cmdr. Jennifer Gosse, Glogauer’s superior officer and head of the team of 15 chaplains working at the naval installations. “I thought I might need a chaplain that night to do a next of kin notification, because everybody else was frankly zonked.”

Although none of the victims were Jewish, Gosse was grateful for having Glogauer on standby.

“We had disaster after disaster after disaster,” said Gosse, an Anglican archdeacon. “I was desperate for extra help.”

In the end, although Glogauer wasn’t dispatched, the rabbi maintained that being an Orthodox Jew wouldn’t matter, even if military chaplains are often called padres.

“They can call me whatever they like, as long as they call me. It’s all about engagement,” he said. “If I can do what I do, hopefully they’ll look past the beard and see the heart.”

Captain Noteh Glogauer, 12 Wing Shearwater Chaplain, leads the procession to the hearse during the May 24 homecoming of the body of Capt. Jennifer Casey | Photo: Ordinary Seaman Melissa Gonzalez/12 Wing Imaging Services

Just Show Up

Canada’s chaplains are guided by three principles: minister to people of their own faith, help others worship in their own way and care for all.

Despite the Ten Commandments badge Glogauer wears on his chaplain’s uniform, the job is more spiritual – what he refers to as a “ministry of presence.”

“The role of a chaplain is to just show up,” Glogauer said. “That’s me demonstrating that I’m there for someone, I’m going to look after them, I’m going to walk with them.”

Still, Glogauer knows he’s breaking new ground for Jews in Canada’s military. As the first full-time Jewish chaplain posted to work in Halifax, Glogauer is also only the third rabbi since the Second World War to serve in the regular forces.

He follows Capt. Bryan Bowley, a Montreal native who joined the RCAF in 2013 after a career as a pulpit rabbi. Glogauer’s mentor, Capt. (Ret.) Lazer Danzinger, a Thornhill rabbi who joined the regular army in 2010 as a career chaplain, was the first.

“The chaplaincy branch is very open-minded and very progressive,” said Danzinger, now retired.

Despite his early fears that Glogauer looked “too religious” when the new recruit was being groomed to sign up, Danzinger felt his successor would be “fabulous.

“He’s well-grounded in his theology, his Yiddishkeit and his Judaism, but he wants to make a difference,” he said

It was a thrill for Danzinger to watch his protégé handle the ceremony for Capt. Casey. It was also personally satisfying.

“I thought I was a little bit instrumental in breaking stereotypes,” he said. The ramp ceremony was “another huge step.”

Captain (Ret.) Lazer Danzinger, first Jewish regular Canadian Army chaplain | Submitted Photo.

Moving Towards Diversity

Glogauer is the only non-Christian chaplain attached to the navy town, according to Cmdr. Gosse. The Chaplain Service faced criticism in the past for failing to respond quickly enough to the growing diversity of the personnel in today’s Canadian Armed Forces.

“That wasn’t what we should be doing to serve our members best,” Gosse said. “Since I came into this role, I asked to have one of the chaplains from the diversity group to be posted here for people other than Christians.” 

She’s hoping a Muslim chaplain will join the team later this year.

The Canadian military has taken other steps towards religious accommodation: Sikh members can wear turbans and other religious items, while Jews can wear black leather kippot with dress uniforms, as Glogauer does. One of Rabbi Danzinger’s proudest achievements is having camouflage-patterned kippahs issued in the kits of Jewish members.

So far, Glogauer hasn’t had to work on Shabbat, although he could, in an emergency.

“The military gets it by understanding that diversity is at the core of who we are as a Canadian country,” Glogauer said. “I’m so proud to be part of it.”

Commander Jennifer Gosse, Formation Chaplain, CFB Halifax/MARLANT, and Rabbi Glogauer’s superior | Photo credit: Able Seaman Tyler Antonew, Formation Imaging Services – Halifax, NS

Military in My Blood

Glogauer’s enlistment was inspired in part by the five generations of men in his family who wore the uniform for their countries. His German great-grandfather won an Iron Cross in the First World War, serving with the Kaiser’s army. But in 1936, the family escaped from Hitler’s Europe and settled in South Africa.

Glogauer, 50, immigrated with his parents to Calgary in 1978. After attending that city’s I.L. Peretz School, and then public high school, he completed multiple university degrees. Rabbinical ordination followed, and a 25-year career in Jewish education on several continents. His autobiography “Never Give Up” was published in 2016.

Around that time, he made his decision to leave teaching.

“It made me realize that serving in the military would be an opportunity for me to give back to the larger community and, in moving back to Canada, give back all that Canada had provided for me,” Glogauer told the Canadian Jewish News in 2018

Meets Jews Every Day

Jews make up only an estimated one per cent of the regular strength in the Canadian Armed Forces – or somewhere around 700 men and women. The military does not release official numbers.

“I have a tiny, tiny portion of Jewish members,” Glogauer said, adding that not everyone chooses to make their religion public. Jewish personnel can wear the letters JUD on their identity discs, as he does, but not all do. Nevertheless, he encounters Jews “each and every day.”

“I was walking across the hangar last week and someone said to me ‘Shalom Aleichem’,” Glogauer said.

With social distancing restrictions now in place in Halifax, making it trickier for him to introduce himself as the new chaplain, Glogauer is trying a creative approach.

“Once a week I bring a couple dozen bagels [from East Coast Bakery] to the wing commander. They love it!” Glogauer said. “It’s a good way to schmooze.”

Chaplains are also required to foster closer ties with local clergy, under the Religious Leader Engagement Doctrine. Although Halifax synagogues were not holding in-person services due to COVID-19, Glogauer did connect with some of the local rabbis. He also received an enthusiastic welcome through a Zoom talk he did for the Atlantic Jewish Council.

“Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in Canada are here in the Maritimes,” Glogauer told them.

With the pandemic preventing Glogauer’s Toronto-based family from regular visiting, his wife, clinical psychologist Dr. Maline Chaya Glogauer, hoped to drive to Halifax for Shavuot with their two youngest children. Unfortunately for the family, health and safety regulations derailed the visit.

“It’s the only real challenge,” the rabbi acknowledged, two months into his new posting. “It’s a little rough.”

A Facebook post from Cpt. Glogauer of the procession for the homecoming of the body of Capt. Jennifer Casey | Photo: Arnold Noteh Glogauer (Facebook)

Going to sea?

For Glogauer, some isolation will be good training for where he hopes to be deployed: on board a Canadian warship.

“Originally I thought ‘A Jewish rabbi on a boat for six months? How is that going to work!’” Glogauer said, recalling how his kosher meals had to be brought in from Montreal while training in St. Jean, Quebec. But his view has changed, noting the lengths to which the military has gone to understand his needs.

If he does go to sea, there is one problem he’ll need to solve: seasickness.

Glogauer once accompanied a search and rescue mission aboard a C-130 Hercules airplane over Alberta. Even with motion sickness, Glogauer managed to daven Mincha.

“Please God!” he prayed, recalling the rollercoaster ride of a flight. “Please don’t let me be the first rabbi to throw up on their plane!”

Ellin Bessner is a Canadian journalist based in Toronto. She is the author of a new book about Canada’s Jewish servicemen and women who fought in the Second World War. The book is called “Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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