Hassidic rabbi becomes Colorado’s first Jewish military chaplain

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Hassidic rabbi becomes Colorado’s first Jewish military chaplain

Chabad.org/News via JNS
By Karen Schwartz

Gov. Jared Polis officiates at the swearing-in ceremony of Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik at Colorado State University.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, who runs the Chabad Jewish Center of Northern Colorado and Chabad Jewish Student Center @ CSU with his wife, Devorah Leah, and teaches at Colorado State University, is a recipient of the Best Teacher and Outstanding Faculty Advisor awards, and an advisor for Jewish Greek life. This month, he took on another role, having been sworn in as the Colorado Army National Guard’s first Jewish chaplain with the rank of captain.

The Oct. 2 ceremony took place at Colorado State University with Gov. Jared Polis officiating. “As a Jewish American, I was particularly thrilled to be part of Rabbi Gorelik’s historic swearing-in ceremony,” said the governor, who wore a kipah for the event. “His commitment to helping others and serving his community will make him a wonderful spiritual leader for all of the National Guard men and women.” Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell and CSU President Joyce McConnell also attended the socially-distanced ceremony, along with military and state officials, as well as the rabbi’s family.

Gorelik, 44, and a father of six, said he was inspired by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. “I admire anyone who lives for a cause higher than themselves, which is very much the Rebbe’s message.”

He says his family has a history of military service and Jewish leadership, and that he was driven by their commitment, as well as the unprecedented surge in anti-Semitism around the world. “The Rebbe says to create light in the face of darkness,” he explains. “This new role provides much spiritual fulfillment for myself and for my community, and I hope it inspires others to give.”

Connecting With and Inspiring Jewish Troops

Amy Cooper, who has been in the Army National Guard for nine years, met the rabbi at her annual two-weeks of training this summer. “When you think of a chaplain, I feel like you don’t think of a rabbi, so when I saw him out in the field, it piqued my interest,” she says.

They got to talking about being Jewish and in the military, and the rabbi shared his contact information in case she wanted to talk again. It was a rare opportunity, says Cooper, adding that Jews are few and far between at her training events. And he linked her to nearby Jewish outlets, which is helping her reconnect to the community, says Cooper.

“I’m really grateful because it’s something I’ve missed since I’ve lived here,” she explains. “It’s nice to see and meet other Jews, and he’s gotten me back to that.”

Ari Lapin, who met the rabbi seven years ago when his family moved to the northern Colorado city of Fort Collins from California, says he’s encouraged and energized by the rabbi’s new role. “The last thing Rabbi needs is another title: father of six, professor, Chabad director, and I’m sure many more,” Lapin tells Chabad.org. “Yet he is the perfect guy for the job. It is so beautiful in its improbability and so cogent in uncertain times. That’s our extraordinary rabbi.”

Gorelik says he hopes his new posting, which is focused on providing spiritual service to National Guard members, opens the door for others to consider how they can create light. “I’m hoping others will be inspired to ask and to find ways to give, and that together, we can create a brighter future and a better world.”

Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org/News.

Caption: Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik.
Photo by John Eisele/CSU.





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