“I never imagined I would be in the military.”
So began the journey of one Chai Lifeline family – from a devastating diagnosis for their newborn son – to a lifetime of service as a reserve military personnel liaison connecting with Jewish soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines across the world. On this Veterans Day, Chai Lifeline pays tribute to Rabbi Elie Estrin and his family for their service to our nation:
Here, in his own words, is Rabbi Estrin’s story:
“My wife and I have six children. Our youngest son is now almost three-years-old. He was born with complex congenital heart disease as a result of heterotaxy. Despite being born in hospice care with a life expectancy of 4-6 hours, he’s proven all the doctors wrong and has done unbelievably well.
Chai Lifeline has been there since before he was born, assisting us with having experts available to guide us in case of the worst, God forbid. They also have showered our children with toys, and when we moved from Seattle to Miami, they arranged for a teen to come over and play with the younger children, which has helped tremendously.
Nissi has had a complicated medical history, including eight surgical procedures, half of them open heart, with a middle of the night cardiac arrest, and enough twists and turns to make a roller coaster engineer dizzy. But thank God, he’s doing extraordinarily well. He sees therapists regularly for his various delays, but he’s a truly miraculous gift, and his bright disposition expresses that every day.
I never imagined I would be in the military. The journey that brought me there was that we ran a Chabad House on campus at the University of Washington, and a significant number of our very close students ended up being either pre-or post-military. I always felt like there was an element in my service to them that was missing, as the military world is very unique and their needs – both Jewish and emotional – are from a world that I didn’t understand well.
The day that I saw that the Department of Defense allowed beards in the military, I thought it worthwhile to look into what it would take to be a military chaplain. A former Marine and then-current Air Force Reserve friend strongly encouraged me to join. I have not regretted it since. It has become a very special part of my life. I now work as the military personnel liaison for the Aleph Institute, and my job is to connect with Jewish soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines across the world, and make sure they have the Jewish support they need, wherever they are. In my reserve position, I served at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and I head there several times a year to serve.”