MIAMI, FL — Sunday, March 2nd, Rabbi Zalman Lipskier, Director of Chabad at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, will be formally commissioned as the first Jewish Chaplain in Georgia’s military history to serve in the Georgia State Defense Force and Army, Air and National Guard.
This is the second appointment of a Chassidic Rabbi to one of the country’s 25 volunteer State Defense Forces. “I’ve wanted Jewish representation in the Georgia State Defense Force and National Guard for a long time,” said Commanding General Michael McGuinn, “and I was absolutely thrilled when a friend of mine told me that a Chassidic Rabbi had joined the Maryland State Defense Force. He put me in touch with The Aleph Institute who is appointed by the U.S. Department of Defense as an Ecclesiastical Endorsing Agency and serves the Jewish military population worldwide. They sent out a request and Rabbi Lipskier answered the call.” The Aleph Institute endorsed the Rabbi into chaplaincy service and provided the financial assistance to procure his military uniforms and equipment.
Fueled by the vision of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to reach every Jew wherever they may be, Rabbi Lipskier, 31, has long recognized the need for Jewish Chaplaincy in the military. He previously served as a volunteer civilian Rabbi Chaplain at Fort Benning for five years. “I am looking forward to fulfilling this position in a formal way,” he said, “and to using the vital resources and services provided by The Aleph Institute to help the many people who would not otherwise have Jewish Chaplaincy or programming and support available to them.”
“For us to be able to work with The Aleph Institute in commissioning a Rabbi of this caliber is a real asset for us,” said Chaplain (Col) John Owings, The Joint Forces Chaplain for Georgia, over the Army, Air Guard and State Defense Force. “I have a high degree of trust in the ability of Chabad Rabbis to provide pastoral care to people of all faiths. Rabbi Lipskier is already working with the student body at Emory and doing excellent work. We will do everything we can to support him and ensure that he is on equal footing with all religious denominations.”
With no Jewish chaplains to serve the 13,500 troops in Georgia’s National Guard, Rabbi Lipskier, in the spirit of all Military Chaplains, will provide critical chaplaincy services for soldiers and their families, as needed, regardless of religious denomination across the entire spectrum of Army and Air Guard. He will assist soldiers deploying to and returning from combat zones. “I’ll be there for them,” he said, “for them and their families – when they go out and when they return safely, G-d willing.”
The appointment of an orthodox Rabbi to military Chaplaincy comes with an untraditional waiver to allow facial hair. “It’s a matter of having authentic Jewish representation in the Defense Force, or not,” said Commanding General Michael McGuinn about Rabbi Lipskier’s beard. “Rabbi Lipskier is a fine, fine man, and he will perform a tremendous service for the troops. We’re thrilled to have him join us.”
Rabbi Lipskier will be formally commissioned into Chaplaincy service at a graduation ceremony at The State Department Defense Complex in Atlanta on Sunday at noon. Lipskier says that he is grateful for the accommodations that the Defense Force made for him to attend training on Sunday instead of Saturday in order to honor the holy Sabbath. “I very much appreciate the support and consideration of the Defense Force to help me better serve the State Defense Force and National Guard volunteers, and for making the best interests of the soldiers a top priority,” he concluded.
THE ALEPH INSTITUTE’S MILITARY PROGRAMS ensure the Free Exercise of religion guaranteed under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution for Jews serving in the United States Armed Forces. The Aleph Institute is appointed by the United States Department of Defense to recruit, vet and endorse Rabbis to serve as Chaplains in the Armed Forces, so that wherever a Jew is stationed or deployed he or she will have access to a vibrant Jewish program through an enriching educational experience with the vital resources and materials that Jewish soldiers and their families need to stay connected to their Jewish heritage, observe and enjoy the Jewish holidays and live a Torah-true life while in service.
CHAPLAINCY PROGRAMS: http://www.aleph-institute.org/leah/Military Chaplaincy Programs.pdf