By Chaplain (CPT) Elisar Admon, USAR
My wife says I like adventure, and she’s probably right. My journey toward chaplaincy was a long one, and it started with a teaching opportunity.
Both of us are born and bred Israelis. After we got married and I finished studying for the rabbinate, I became a teacher at a school in Haifa. One day, the principal told me that he had previously done shlichut, a type of State Mission, as a teacher in Indianapolis. He thought that teaching American kids Hebrew and about Israel would be a great opportunity for me and my wife, who is also a teacher. I called the Jewish Agency in Israel to see if we could participate.
We soon found an opening in Philadelphia. Most couples do this work for 3-5 years and then go back to Israel. But after living and working in Philadelphia for five years, we didn’t want our shlichut to end. We felt we had more to give. So instead of going back to Israel, we moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where my wife and I became very involved in the local Jewish community.
While there, we became American citizens. It was a long process that took about 6-7 years. First we applied for a green card. The Jewish day school in Charleston where we taught helped us by becoming our sponsor. All of us my wife and I and our six children—became dual citizens, and as a result, I felt very connected with my adopted country. Later, we moved to Pittsburgh, PA, in order to have a good Jewish high school for our children.
Aside from our connection to the USA via my shlichut work, I was inspired to become an Army Chaplain because of my older brother, of blessed memory. His whole life revolved around kindness and community service. He always thought about others and did things with a big smile. For example, he volunteered at Magen David Adom as an EMT. Every time he heard an ambulance, he would run after it to see if he could help on the scene.
Before his passing, my brother did military service in the Israeli Air Force where he taught airplane engineering. Then when he was 23, he passed away in a tragic car accident. His absence left a big hole in my life. Ever since then, I have strived to turn his legacy of helping others into my life’s mission.
Like him, I also served in the IDF. In fact, the search-and-rescue unit that came to Miami after the Surfside building collapse was my own unit. With the training I received in that unit, I also became involved with Zaka, the renowned Israeli rescue and recovery organization, and other similar organizations. When I first came to the US, I thought I’d left that world behind. But unfortunately, the 2018 Tree of Life shooting happened in my own Pittsburgh neighborhood. I went to the scene immediately, and was able to assist the police with taking care of the remains of the victims in accordance with Jewish law. As a result, I became very involved as part of the Chevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society). It was then that I realized how much I could help police officers, troopers, and soldiers. That tragic event pushed me further toward chaplaincy.
I currently serve many roles including Army Reserve Chaplain. I also serve as a municipal (Pittsburgh) and state (Pennsylvania) police chaplain, FBI chaplain, and also a prison chaplain, in addition to several rabbinic responsibilities.
As far as military service goes, I would like to continue serving G-d and country by reaching out to soldiers, help them spiritually and mentally to complete their missions, support and provide religious services, and bring G-d to our soldiers.
Originally published in the Shavous 5782 Jewish-American Warrior