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Hasidic Jew fired from NYPD over beard length

June 11, 2012 5:19:27 AM PDT
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 beard.

"I've left my beard natural all my life, I've never ever cut my beard," Litzman said.

It was beard or badge and he could not have both.

"According to the Torah, you are not allowed to cut your beard - period. End of story," Litzman added.

The 38-year-old police recruit and father of five from Monsey, New York is a devout Hasidic Jew. He has paramedic experience, speaks 3 languages, and carries a passion for the NYPD.

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

When he first applied to the academy he says he asked several times about his beard but was never discouraged.

"All I was ever told was to file for religious exemption, which is available," said Litzman

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

Lewin did not immediately respond to telephone and emails messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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

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