First Rabbi to deploy in warship gets an understanding of challenges sailors face

Captain Glogauer was the first Jewish Rabbi to deploy on board a Royal Canadian Navy ship, which was HMCS Winnipeg during Operations Neon and Projection.

Royal Canadian Navy

HMCS Winnipeg’s Chaplain made history during the ship’s recent deployment on Operations Neon 
and Projection in the Indo-Pacific. 

Captain (Capt) Noteh Glogauer was the first Jewish Rabbi to deploy in a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) warship. 

While he got to participate in the excitement of the two operations, including the occasional helicopter flight, the main reason he requested to deploy was to better understand the challenges sailors face first hand. 

As the ship Chaplain, he was the one many members turned to with their personal issues.

“I was the only Chaplain on ship. It was 259 other people, it was a privilege, and it was on me to develop the relationships and create the openness for people to see they actually can come and seek support.”

He served the crew breakfast, lunch, and supper daily to keep a pulse on them, and checked in with those he noticed might be feeling down. 

“It’s not about me and where I am coming from,” he says of his approach to counselling crew members. “It’s about having empathy.”

Empathy is about making a real emotional connection, he says. It is the ability to understand the challenge a person is experiencing, validate their feelings, and to walk with them so they know there’s genuine support to help them work through the issue.

“There is nothing more important than providing a safe environment where someone feels supported and not judged.”

He’s not what most people typically expect from a Canadian Armed Forces member on board a navy warship. 

“I definitely don’t look like the old military, because of who I am. I’m a Hasidic Orthodox Jew. I wear a camo yarmulke (Jewish head cover) and have an untrimmed beard because that is a tenet of our faith.” 

But looking like someone who doesn’t fit the mold makes him more relatable to someone who might feel like an outsider, he believes.

“The military sees value in me being here, because of who I am, inside and out.”

Rabbi Glogauer said the entire experience has been a real eye-opener, helping him better comprehend what deploying means for sailors and their families and loved ones back home. 

Leading up to deployment he gained an understanding for that feeling where family members start to distance themselves a little bit, almost like a protective instinct, before the deployment. 

“I did notice I was distancing myself a little bit beforehand, too.”

He also realized that during the deployment a lot of the physical, mental, and financial burdens were placed on his wife in taking care of their family.

Then there’s the challenge of communication.

“Being cut off from family is really hard.”

Rabbi Glogauer spoke about the longest leg of Winnipeg’s deployment – 24 days without ports and mail, and challenging communications with Wi-Fi. 

“You begin to understand the stress that people start to have. That’s a huge strain.”

Maintaining his own relationships from afar helped him learn more about what others on board were experiencing. 

“My first grandchild turned one in November during the deployment. And for most of his milestones, my family could go and visit, but I couldn’t. So that feeling gave me a much better understanding of what our members are feeling while separated from their loved ones.”

While time alone on ship can be a stressor for some, for others it represents an opportunity for personal growth, to work on their relationship skills, and to do things for their friends or loved ones.

One evening in the wardroom, the Rabbi and a few others noticed another sailor was crocheting. About three or four sailors joined in and started crocheting together once a week.

“I started to crochet something for my grandson. I learned a new skill here because of the amazing variety of people and the desire for personal connections.”

One modification he had to make was to the name and format of the regular Sunday meetings, traditionally led by a priest or pastor and called Church Services. The Rabbi changed the name to Sunday Services. The format became an open discussion group focused on topics relevant to the members aboard, such as leadership in confrontational situations, building resiliency, and developing purpose in life, to name a few.

It’s more about the feeling of connectedness to others rather than preaching, he says. 

“The bond of collegiality where the value is in teamwork, strength in unity and relationships, that’s what fosters purpose in life.

“I asked members how they want to be remembered? And have they made a mark in their day-to-day contribution to the good of their team, the ship, the Canadian Armed Forces, and their family? That’s my role – to help them frame their life’s journey in as personal and meaningful a way as possible.”

Winnipeg returned to its homeport of Esquimalt, on Dec. 16, 2021, after transiting over 30,000 nautical miles on Operations Neon and Projection in the Indo-Pacific region.


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