Two new Jewish chaplains have been appointed to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), including the first Jewish woman, marking a significant milestone in the history of Jewish chaplaincy in Australia.
The two appointees are Rabbanit Judith Levitan of Maroubra Synagogue in Sydney, and Rabbi Ari Rubin of Chabad House in Cairns.
Rabbi Ralph Genende, senior rabbi to the ADF and member of the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS), said, “In the demanding and challenging ADF selection process, the two new chaplains were both found to be exceptionally worthy candidates.
“I am particularly pleased and privileged to welcome the first Jewish woman to this role.”
Rabbanit Levitan, a lawyer at Legal Aid NSW and religious programs coordinator at Maroubra Synagogue, is the first female Jewish chaplain appointed to the ADF.
“I believe I can provide a diverse perspective and an additional point of access for army women and men to chaplaincy services,” she said.
Rabbanit Levitan received semichah (rabbinic ordination) from Yeshivat Maharat in New York and currently serves on the board of directors of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia (NCJWA).
“I see my role primarily as providing a comforting and empathetic presence to army personnel on their life journeys, and offering support in times of crisis, challenge and celebration,” Rabbanit Levitan said.
Rabbi Ari Rubin, director of the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life in North Queensland, was ordained at the Rabbinical College of America and has undertaken rabbinical apprenticeships across the globe. He is also a rabbi for Chabad of Rural and Regional Australia (RARA).
Rabbi Rubin said the chaplaincy was a natural extension of his role as a community rabbi, as visits to hospitals, universities, aged care homes and defence bases are all part of the pastoral care services he offers.
“I am so excited to be a part of the defence family representing our religious values to the men and women,” he said.
“I am proud to be able to give back to the country that has given us so much.”
The appointment of the two chaplains will be marked at an event in Sydney on July 19 hosted by Jewish Chaplaincy, the NSW Association of Jewish Service & Ex-Service Men & Women (NAJEX) and the NSW Jewish War Memorial.