Born in Saskatchewan, Esther grew up in Medicine Hat, Alberta. According to Esther’s oral history, ninety percent of the young people in Medicine Hat volunteered for service. At least for young women, this appears to be accurate, with no less than five Jewish women from Medicine Hat enlisting. With a total Jewish population of ninety-three in 1941, this rate of enlistment was ten times higher than the general response rate for Canadian women, which was just under one percent of the 1941 female population. Perhaps the presence in Medicine Hat of an air force school that was training Commonwealth airmen from around the world was one reason so many youth from the area signed up for military service. The Royal Air Force No. 34 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) was opened in Medicine Hat in early 1941. Esther's family welcomed into their home Jewish servicemen from around the world training at the school.
As soon as she completed high school, Esther moved from Medicine Hat to Ottawa to join the civil service. She worked as a secretary in the Department of Munitions and Supplies. This department was involved in "top secret" work including the development of landing craft utilized in the allied invasion. Despite being involved in the war effort, Esther noted "I did not feel I was doing enough." She was committed to joining the military, following in the footsteps of her brother and other Jewish girls from Medicine Hat.
Over her parents' objections, Esther enlisted in the spring of 1943. While her goal was to be a wireless operator working overseas, she served as a secretary, stationed in Ottawa at Air Force headquarters. Esther worked in The Directorate of Technical Training. She rose quickly through the ranks and was one of the youngest to receive sergeant's stripes. As a sergeant she was assigned to night-watch duty guarding a floor of the Air Force headquarters which held "top secret" radar files. Her brother Manuel, who enlisted in the RCAF in 1939, was shot down over Belgium in November 1943 on his thirty-first mission and ended up in Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp. When Esther heard that Manuel was "missing in action; presumed dead," she was "more determined than ever" to get an overseas posting. While she made numerous requests to be posted overseas, she remained in Ottawa for the duration of her service.
After the war Esther married Abe Nobleman whom she met on a group date with ex-servicemen. They initially lived in Montreal, followed by Medicine Hat and then Vancouver. The decision to move to Vancouver was influenced by the fact that Abe had been stationed in the area. Prior to having her family (she had three children), Esther worked in the legal profession. While raising a family, she assisted Abe in his ladies wear shop and together they created successful businesses in Medicine Hat and Vancouver. In her oral history, Esther notes that during her fifteen years of married life in Medicine Hat, she also worked as the interviewer for a nightly radio interview program called Assignment. In 1976, at the age of 55, Esther graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Fine Arts.
Artwork inspired by Esther's story.