Rabbi Rafael Kaiserblueth: Why I Serve

Reflections of the Royal Australian Navy’s First Jewish Chaplain, on Anzac Day 2024

The idea of service is ingrained in our DNA as Jews. Wherever we end up living, based on our generations-long diaspora, we take it upon ourselves to enmesh ourselves in the fabric of whichever country we have settled in, adding to and contributing to the society. My wanderings did not start with me but with my grandparents, as they fled Europe in the 1930s, seeking refuge from the gathering storm of Nazism. They were fortunate to receive sanctuary in South America, but always with a sense of trepidation at the instability of governments and society in those countries.

As the first one in my family born in the United States, my family finally had a place of stability where we could live and thrive. As I grew up, and in my world travels, I became keenly aware of just how blessed we were to have fled the horrors of Europe to the comforts of a country that took us in. I resolved then to give back to the country that had welcomed my family and given us a home.

That opportunity presented itself in 2005, when I was commissioned into the United States Navy as a Chaplain to serve those who were serving the United States, both for the Jews who serve, but also for all those who had committed to a life of service to a higher ideal, service to the country, regardless of faith.

After 13 years of service, and after my move here to Australia, it became impossible for me to continue in the US Navy, but fortunately, there was an opening in the Royal Australian Navy, and following the granting of my Australian citizenship, I was appointed in 2023 as the first Jewish Chaplain to serve in the Royal Australian Navy. Again, the ideal of service is embedded in my DNA as a Jew. Australia is my home, and it has welcomed me with open arms. I feel I can do no less but to serve those who defend the ideals and values of our country. It is a sacrifice, but I can only hope that through my service, the horrors of my grandparent’s generation will never be forgotten or repeated, and to strengthen the country in which we live.

Join us for our annual Anzac Shabbat service from 6.15 pm on Friday 26 April in the Heritage Sanctuary. This is a combined Progressive and Masorti service and, as such, it will not be live streamed. We look forward to seeing you on campus.

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