Jewish chaplain lights a ceremonial hanukkiah at CFB Winnipeg

Rabbi Noteh Glogauer stands beside a hanukkiah at CFB Winnipeg on Dec. 7. The hanukkiah was built especially for the occasion by the 17 Wing Mission Support Squadron.

On Dec. 7, Canadian Air Force (CAF) personnel stationed at CFB Winnipeg witnessed their first ever hanukkiah lighting. A crowd of air men and women dressed in their military informs, along with several members of the Jewish community, stood their ground in the face of bitter cold and watched as the two-metre-tall hanukkiah was lit up for the holiday.

The individual who was most responsible for the event was Rabbi Noteh Glogauer, 17 Wing’s still relatively new Jewish chaplain.

“The menorah lighting speaks to the diversity of the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Rabbi Glogauer, who’s one of just two Jewish chaplains in the Air Force (the other is based in Trenton, Ont., although Rabbi Glogauer noted that there are two rabbis in the reserves). “All faiths are recognized and supported. We chaplains work with armed forces members of all faiths.”

Rabbi Glogauer originally assumed that he would have to purchase a hanukkiah for the ceremony, but was pleasantly surprised and appreciative when the 17 Wing Mission Support Squadron offered to build one for him.

Rabbi Noteh Glogauer, centre, addresses a gathering before lighting a hanukkiah at CFB Winnipeg on Dec. 7.

It has been a long and winding journey that led Rabbi Glogauer to his present station in life – a journey that he outlined in his 2016 memoir, Never Give Up: A Journey From Class Clown to School Principal. Originally from South Africa, he grew up in Calgary in the late 1970s. He was initially attracted to teaching and began his career in the public school system.

His first position in a Jewish school was in Houston, where he and his family had moved so his wife, Chaya Glogauer, could do an internship. (She has a PhD in clinical psychology and is currently working at SickKids hospital in Toronto.)

It was in Houston that Rabbi Glogauer set his sights on becoming a principal at a Jewish day school and receiving his rabbinic ordination.

Over his 25-year career, he served as principal at Akiva Academy in Calgary, as well as at Jewish schools in New York and Sydney, Australia.

It was in Sydney that he heard the call to enlist. “We were commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I at the school and the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) contributions to the fighting,” he recalled.

“The commemorations had a strong impact on me. It made me realize that serving in the military would be an opportunity for me to give back to the larger community and, in returning to Canada, return all that Canada had given me.”

Rabbi Noteh Glogauer, centre, poses for a photo with with his wife, Chaya, left, and son, Yossi.

Rabbi Glogauer added that he comes from a long line of soldiers. His great-grandfather served in the German army during the First World War, his zayde fought with the South African forces in the Second World War (the family moved to South Africa from Germany in 1938) and his father was drafted into the South African army.

Rabbi Glogauer’s formal induction into the CAF was just over a year ago at the Canadian Armed Forces Recruiting Centre in Toronto. CFB Winnipeg is his first posting.

Although his family – two teenage daughters and a son who is studying at Ryerson University – lives in Toronto, he gets back to see them every couple of months or so and is home for all the holidays. He said that he considers Winnipeg home and feels that he is a part of the Jewish community here. He walks 90 minutes each way to one of two Orthodox shuls in south Winnipeg and was invited to participate in the community’s vigil on behalf of the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre.

And while the Jewish Air Force personnel in Western Canada may be few and far between, Rabbi Glogauer’s presence sends a strong signal that the CAF is open to all.