Rabbi Gorelik joins Colorado Army National Guard

Molly O'Shea

On Friday, Oct. 2 Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik was sworn in as the first-ever Jewish chaplain in the Colorado Army National Guard.

Rabbi Gorelik has been a community leader for the last 15 years. He is not only an award-winning teacher but also the co-director of Chabad of Northern Colorado.

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“In the face of all the challenges that we are seeing in our world and society, to have some positive news like this is very uplifting. Not only do I have the honor and pleasure of serving, but I also hope this brings some joy to others and inspires them (to) find ways to contribute.” -Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, first Colorado Army National Guard Jewish chaplain

Rabbi, now Captain and Chaplain Gorelik, has been a faculty member in the philosophy department for over 15 years and the recipient of the CSU best teacher award in 2014. 

Additionally, he has been given the Outstanding Faculty Advisor award in 2012 and 2018. He is the faculty advisor to the Chabad Jewish Student Organization, Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi Jewish Sorority and Students for Holocaust Awareness.

“No matter the circumstances for our gathering, he was always there first and foremost for our students, being light that dispels darkness.” -Tony Frank, CSU chancellor

Rabbi Gorelik explained that he teaches the only accredited Judaism course on campus, as well as a free “How to find Happiness” course sponsored by the Provost’s Office.

It started last year as a response to watching the internal struggle students had to the chaos in the world and the societal tensions that begun with the pandemic. The Rabbi felt that part of “his role was to help with that struggle,” said Rabbi Gorelik. 

According to Rabbi Gorelik, there were a number of motivations behind him joining the Colorado Army National Guard. He comes from a family with a history of military service and Jewish leadership. 

“It is a reflection of a Jewish fundamental to help others and create a better world because a purposeful life is to live for a cause beyond self, which is what my family and I have been trying to do for 15 years with our work on campus and community,” Rabbi Gorelik explained. “When there is a need, you step up.” 

Among the many other reasons he wanted to join the armed service, Rabbi Gorelik wanted to be an example to his community of how to make an impact.

“I was encouraging people to fill their void and sense of despair from the darkness by creating light through good deeds, which led me to ask myself the same question,” Rabbi Gorelik said. “And that gave me that final push to join.” 

Governor Jared Polis swore Rabbi Gorelik in. Polis explained that as a Jewish-American, he was particularly “thrilled” to be part of the historic swearing-in ceremony. 

“His commitment to helping others and serving his community will make him a wonderful spiritual leader for all of the National Guard men and women,” Polis said.  

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Rabbi Gorelik’s family had a long history of joining the service and wanted to carry on that honor.

He explained that he now has an opportunity to give back. He said that the United States gave part of his family a home after both World War II and the Holocaust.

“The fact that the U.S. military and Colorado Army National Guard accepts diversity into their ranks and is truly embracing everyone of different backgrounds reflects the foundation of this country in religious freedom and equality,” Rabbi Gorelik said. “I think that’s why so many people are so excited about it.”

He wishes that his grandmother was alive to be able to see, explaining what an “honor, privilege and joy” it is to get the opportunity to serve those who serve. 

Colorado State University is a large part of Rabbi Gorelik’s life; so much so that he chose to celebrate the occasion of making history at the University.

“The governor offered to have it at the governor’s mansion,” Rabbi Gorelik said. “And I said ‘no, this is my home here.’”  

Chancellor Tony Frank has worked with Rabbi Gorelik for years in many ways. He explained that he is both a friend and leader. Frank said that Rabbi Gorelik’s advice and criticism were “vital” to his years serving as the president of CSU.

“I’ve celebrated with the Rabbi as we lit the menorah on campus,” Frank said. “I’ve broken bread with him, I’ve learned from him and I’ve stood beside him in sorrow to mourn those lost to anti-Semitic violence and hate. And no matter the circumstances for our gathering, he was always there first and foremost for our students, being light that dispels darkness.”

Frank went onto explain that the Rabbi’s dedication to service, teaching and counseling those needing support will make him “a wonderful chaplain to our National Guard members.”

Gorelik expressed his gratitude to the members of his community, the University and his “beloved students” for the support and encouragement during this time and over the years. 

“In the face of all the challenges that we are seeing in our world and society, to have some positive news like this is very uplifting,” Rabbi Gorelik said. “Not only do I have the honor and pleasure of serving, but I also hope this brings some joy to others and inspires them (to) find ways to contribute.”

Molly O’Shea can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Molly_O23.