Flying high for Canada
August 14, 2012 | Joanne Hill - CorrespondentcloseAuthor: Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Name: Joanne Hill
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TORONTO – When Ezra Goldschläger decided to enlist in the military he faced a question unique to members of the Jewish community: would he join the Canadian or the Israeli services?
The London, ON, native chose the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“First of all, I love Canada,” said Goldschläger. “When it comes to the militaries of Canada and Israel, I see a defining difference. The IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] have their hands full protecting the state of Israel because Israel is constantly threatened. This limits the IDF’s ability to intervene in matters beyond its borders... [such as] a peacekeeping mission in a far away country.
“In Canada we take for granted the safety and security we enjoy. This security allows us to send troops and resources to help those in other parts of the world who are in need.”
Goldschläger, now 29, said he first became interested in a military career after he heard lectures by Major General Romeo Dallaire and Major Brent Beadsley about their experiences in Rwanda. Today he is proud to be part of Canada’s ongoing tradition of taking action, whether in combat or peacekeeping roles, to prevent or stop genocide and other crimes against humanity.
“I believe that, as a Jew, I have a responsibility...to act against oppression and the bloodshed of innocents and work towards strengthening human rights,” he said. “The Canadian military gives me a chance, in some small part – G-d willing – to stop the killing of innocents, make the world safe and work towards human rights.”
Goldschläger was sworn in as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force in August 2007. Following basic training in Quebec, he was posted to Greenwood, NS, for three years of instruction, which included primary flight training. In addition, he took university-level courses in military law, defence management, war, Canadian politics, Canadian history and other subjects at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston.
After successfully completing primary flight training, Goldschläger was posted to Moose Jaw, SK, in August 2011 for basic flight training. The training was challenging, stressful and enjoyable, he said, albeit not always at the same time.
Working in a simulated cockpit gave Goldschläger and his fellow trainees essential practice before taking the cockpit of a Harvard II aircraft. In the Harvard II they learned, “instrument flying, visual flying and low-level navigation, where we flew 500 feet over the ground at 240 knots (which equates to about 430 km an hour), which was excellent fun.”
Once during formation flying, “we were close enough that I could clearly see the whites of my friend’s eyes.”
Goldschläger is now a second lieutenant immersed in the next phase of his pilot’s training, learning to fly a helicopter, in Portage La Prairie, Man. Upon completion he will earn his wings and be promoted to captain.
As has been the case throughout much of his training, most of his postings in Canada will be in smaller cities and towns that likely will not have a significant Jewish population, he said. Thus far, he has made connections with Jewish communities both online and in neighbouring municipalities, and he’s confident that he and his fiancé, Sarah Tymchuk, will continue to meet that challenge together following their wedding this fall.
Any mention of his or anyone else’s religious background in the RCAF has been a “non-event: no big deal. Race, creed, any of that, it doesn’t matter. The only measure is: are you good at your job? That is important. In combat roles, or search and rescue roles, being bad at your job could mean that somebody gets killed or hurt. So, as long as you’re good at your job, that’s all that matters.”
Ezra Goldschläger is the son of Dr. Alain Goldschläger, professor, University of Western Ontario and Canadian delegate, International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. This spring, Dr. Goldschläger was given the Ontario Volunteer Service Award in recognition of 30 years of service with B’nai Brith Canada, the National Task Force on Holocaust Education and the League of Human Rights.
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