Hasidic Police Recruit Fired For His Beard

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fishel Litzman hasidic jew beard policeNEW YORK (AP) -- An Orthodox Jew who was weeks away from becoming a New York City police officer said he has been kicked out of the police academy for refusing to trim his beard. Former recruit Fishel Litzman of Monsey was fired Friday after multiple confrontations with the department over the length of his whiskers, he told the Daily News.

Litzman is Hasidic and believes that cutting his beard is forbidden by God.

NYPD rules usually require officers to be clean-shaven. The department makes exceptions for beards kept for religious purposes, but even then only allows 1 millimeter worth of growth.

"I don't understand what the problem would be," Litzman said.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the department's rules are reasonable and Litzman was aware of them when he signed up.

Litzman was first cited in January for his unkempt beard. He was a month away from receiving his shield when he was fired.

"I always wanted to be a police officer," said Litzman, a 38-year-old father of five who speaks Hebrew and Yiddish and was once a paramedic.

His attorney, Nathan Lewin, said the police department knew when Litzman applied that he would not trim his beard.

And now, Lewin said, it's a case of religious discrimination.

"We're going to be deliberating and considering what the steps are that we're going to take," Lewin told The Associated Press on Saturday night.

The department hired its first Hasidic officer in 2006 and the force now has at least two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers.

Like observant Muslim and Sikh officers, Hasidic officers are allowed to keep their beards for religious reasons but must keep them neat and trimmed.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a statement Saturday saying he was "deeply troubled" by the firing.

"While the NYPD can exercise control over the personal appearance of its force in order to ensure that all officers are capable of performing their duties, they are also required to make a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs," Stringer said.

He urged the police commissioner to reconsider the case.


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donpantanella

A beard is a safety issue. There are times when a police officer may have to wear a oxygen mask or another type of mask for safety reasons, a beard will interfere with the mask having a air tight seal. My job would not allow beards for that reason.

June 17 2012 at 6:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paula

What a bunch of crap. Shave that nastiness off you face or find another job.

June 16 2012 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Giemma Raindance

SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE. IF HE WANTS TO BE RELIGIOUS, BECOME A RABBI. OTHERWISE FOLLOW THE SAME RULES AS THE OTHERS. IF HE DOESNT THEN WHAT STOPS HIM FROM FOLLOWING THE CIVIC LAW!

June 13 2012 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vegasw52

when you go for a job , you abide by the rules.. enough with everyones discrimination stories.. there are so many people out of work including me... enough follow the rules or find another job... complaining thats all everyone does.. this guy will probably recv 1 million dlrs for his beard .. what a joke.... lol
gia

June 12 2012 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Princess

One of the Hasidim rules is that a man can't touch another woman, especially if she is not his wife...so he would be willing to bend that rule but not the one for the beard? This looks like a well planned money law suit...

June 12 2012 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Escoed52

As a person who has had a beard for 38 years + which is down to my belly button, and been in a few fights. I have been grabbed by it many times as a means of control. As a police officer I can see the problem with it being longer than their regulations.. You would never want a suspect to control you that way. You should have shaved it if being a cop meant that much to you, I don't think God would mind.

June 12 2012 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MaryAnn

I'm tired of all religious considerations and exemptions. This is the job description for everyone!!!

June 12 2012 at 10:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Imofanopinion

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And why is this so hard to deal with?? Everyone has rules to follow, if he wants to keep the beard then he has to guarantee that he will abide by the 1 millimeter worth of growth rule. SIMPLE - I do not believe rules need to be changed on a one by one basis. He DID know this when he started school. Which BTW is a school - he was NOT fired....you cannot get fired from school!! Might we presume the the NYPD believed knowing the regulations that the person would trim his beard as required??

It is NOT religious Discrimination-- it is a long standing rule and I hope he loses his case. Otherwise we can expect that those who have physical attributes that do not fit into a job description claim either physical or religious Discrimination. Why is there a height or age requirement...let's get rid of that too.

Another note -- many of us have no problem refusing to accept the burka or any face covering for Muslim women yet some here think it is okay toi accept the long beard for a Hasidic man? Is that not discrimination? One is a Muslim and one a Jew??

June 12 2012 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Michael

When the guy signed up, he knew the rules. The fact that he believes that an exception should now be made for him demonstrates that he wouldn’t make a good police officer. It is right that he should be terminated and as for the suit, it just an attempt to use religion to get money. If this was any other city other then New York, he would be laughed at.

June 12 2012 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jen

This guy knew the rules when he was chosen to attend the police academy. This is a well thought out plan and he should be ashamed at the lesson he is teaching his five children, that it is ok for some to follow the rules and not others. If the Sikhs and Muslims have to keep their beards trimmed without protest then what makes this guy think because he is an hasidic jew that he is any better.

June 12 2012 at 9:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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