Two years ago, Rabbi Michael Gisser exchanged his Canadian citizenship for U.S. citizenship – step one towards fulfilling his lifelong dream. On Veterans Day, Gisser – the associate chaplain for Jewish life at Wake Forest, takes step two. He’ll be installed as a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Rabbi Gisser’s motivation? Giving back. His father, a Holocaust survivor, was liberated from a concentration camp at Dachau by U.S. soldiers in April 1945.
“I am only here because of those U.S. soldiers,” Gisser said. “My father weighed 45 pounds and couldn’t walk when he was saved by American soldiers. I want to give back.”
Rabbi Barry Baron, Col. Res., a chaplain in the U.S. Army, will install Rabbi Gisser in the Chaplain Corps in a brief ceremony at 12:30 p.m. followed by a discussion led by Baron about serving as a Jewish Army chaplain.
“When I’m looking to recruit new chaplains, I want to see the commitment, but also the intellect,” said Col. Baron, who says the need for Jewish chaplains is increasing as the number of Jewish soldiers increases. “Rabbi Gisser has both.”
Gisser said holding the ceremony on Veterans Day is particularly meaningful. “We need to remember those who have served. Sometimes we get caught up in politics and we forget the soldiers—the faces behind the politics—who believe in fighting for justice and freedom.”
At age 44, he says he is ready to serve. Gisser will start 14 weeks of training in May and is committed to providing religious services and guidance for soldiers on a part-time basis for the next six years. He will continue to serve as an associate chaplain at Wake Forest. At the University, Gisser is working to build a vibrant and caring Jewish community. He leads Hillel, the student Jewish organization.
“I believe in what the Chaplain Corps does, supporting people in their faith,” Gisser said.
As a reservist, he plans to wear his uniform on days ROTC students wear theirs in order to show support on campus.
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