June 10th, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Hasidic NYPD recruit says he was fired over beard length

From Julia Greenberg, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) - A Hasidic NYPD recruit is planning a lawsuit after being dismissed for refusing to trim his beard for religious reasons, his attorney said Sunday.

Fishel Litzman, 38, was asked to leave the police academy on Friday, his attorney, Nathan Lewin, told CNN. He began the police academy in January, he said, was in the top 1% of his classes and is "highly regarded" by his peers.

The dismissal, Lewin said, is a clear example of "religious discrimination."

"We are planning to bring a lawsuit," the attorney said. "This should not be a practice of the NYPD."

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement the department "makes reasonable accommodations in this regard." Beards for religious purposes are to be kept to 1 millimeter in length, he said, adding that there are other Hasidic and Orthodox uniformed members who observe the accommodation.

Litzman "did not comply with the NYPD's reasonable accommodation to keep his beard trimmed," Browne said. "He did not keep it trimmed to 1mm and he stated that it was his intention to never cut or trim his beard."

But as an Orthodox Hasidic Jew "it is absolutely forbidden in my religious beliefs to cut or trim my beard in any way," Litzman wrote in a March 18 statement to NYPD officials, provided to CNN by Lewin.

Litzman has "wanted all his life to be a police officer," Lewin said. "He always worked to help people."

Litzman wrote that after receiving a 97.6% on his entrance exam last year, he "inquired about keeping my naturally short beard intact" and filled out a religious accommodation form. He received a short letter saying the matter would be addressed when he became a recruit.

After being selected for the 2012 class, the father of five said he resigned his job. "Since I had applied for an exemption before I was accepted and had already been photographed, I believed that the NYPD was aware of my religious needs and accepted me knowing I needed to keep my beard intact," he wrote.

While in classes, Litzman three times was told he would have to cut or shave his beard. Each time, he refused, citing his religious beliefs, Lewin said. He was also punished with the loss of two vacation days, according to Litzman's memo.

He notes that other officers have beards, and said he was told repeatedly that if he cut his beard now, he would not be asked to do so again after leaving the academy.

"I cannot, as a matter of religious conscience, follow that instruction because I may not trim my beard even temporarily to complete the academy," he wrote.

"One of the points that has been drilled home during my short time at the academy is the need to represent the NYPD with integrity," Litzman wrote to police officials. "Although not knowing whether I will be punished for maintaining my religious beliefs has been very taxing on me and my family, I will not waver in my firm belief that I can be a successful member of the NYPD and an Orthodox (Hasidic) Jew at the same time."

He said that as his academic and physical scores show, "I am focused on dedicating myself to being the best probationary police officer I can be."

Asked if other factors could have contributed to Litzman's dismissal, Lewin said, "I don't think it's anything else ... He would - will be, I believe - an outstanding police officer."

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said in a statement Sunday he was "deeply troubled" by the reports Litzman was fired for refusing to trim his beard.

"The NYPD has done a commendable job in recent year of building a police force that tries to reflect the populations that they serve," Stringer said. "Fishel Litzman should be no exception. I urge the police commissioner to reconsider this case as well as the NYPD's rules about religious accommodation more broadly and, in so doing, to make a clear statement in support of religious expression for all."

- cnngc

Filed under: Judaism

soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Nothing fails like atheism


    June 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • fail


      June 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  2. No proof of no God? That's a claim without proof

    Case closed!

    June 10, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • fail


      June 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |



    June 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  4. joe

    I am really getting sick and tired or "exceptions".

    June 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  5. wobbles

    This is stupid. It's not about religion, it's about the ability(or inability) to wear a gas mask. You can't get a good seal on the mask withg a beard. He should never have been accepted, period, with a beard in the first place.

    June 10, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • AusieSceptic1

      yes you can! vaseline on the beard is an excellent seal, though I prefer KY jelly, because it washes out in water.
      p.s. you can use soap on your beard for a seal, that's the advice from the german army re: beards and gasmasks

      June 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  6. Joe Gabahaba

    If you want to be an NYPD officer, you have to meet the standards. Judaism does not require you to have a beard. If you belong to a specific sect that requires you to have facial hair that doesn't meet NYPD standards, you have the choice to meet the standards or not become a NYPD officer.

    June 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
  7. scranton

    This chump knew the regulations regarding beard length when he entered the academy. Everybody needing to change to his way of thinking sux.

    June 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  8. Texan Non-Jew

    38 and joining the police academy. This fella probably had his lawsuit paperwork in order before his application to the academy. No jew should desire to be any sort of police officer. The "my people have been persecuted" frame of mind does not jibe with a law enforcement mentality. It would appear that this is a clever sort of slip and fall.

    June 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  9. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
    • alumette

      Get lost. I pray that you vanish.

      June 10, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      June 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • ninja guy

      I always see u commenting on articles.stop please.plus atheism is healthy for all things

      June 10, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
    • fail

      prayer fails absolutely

      June 11, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~.

      June 11, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  10. Moby Schtick

    He has religious freedom and that means the law can't tell him to shave his beard as a citizen. But you wan the job, you got to abide by the uniform, idiot.

    June 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  11. silence

    The police keep beards trimmed or outright shaved off because they are a safety hazard. When an officer must restrain a criminal, the beard can be pulled. Many officers in our part of the country end up shaving their heads as well in order to avoid having hair pulled out. What is next, a woman officer with a full face head covering? The police department is not their to provide employment opportunities to every religious group. It is there to protect the public without costing the public major expenses in worker comp injuries due to the fact that they are inappropriately dressed or have hair that gets tangled in their equipment or pulled by the criminals they are subduing.
    Get over it. You want the job, dress for it. NYPD did not make up these rules. They are standard across the country because long hair and beards are dangerous in this line of work.

    June 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Shave your beard fool!

    You got fleas up in that sh!t, n!gga!
    That sh!t aint seksy, man.
    You need to check yourself, homie!

    June 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  13. Kindness

    For you.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from som other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

    June 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • alumette

      Are you done yet ? bla...bla...bla....anyone reading this tirade ?

      June 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • omaromar

      Wow. I missed you at the bus stop this week, are you out again ?

      June 10, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  14. Kindness

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."

    June 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  15. M.F. Luder

    What is the purpose of taking a position which upholds laws and regulations, if he is going to violate one right out of the gate?

    June 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  16. Kiral

    I don't really care to support any religious organization, but I damn sure want to undermine NYPD; so good luck on your law suit! and God bless (your God not mine).


    June 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • glennrobert

      A Hasidic Jew wants to be a NYPD Officer. Interesting, because in Israel they won't serve in the Army. Their fanaticism is destroying the Israeli government. An unwillingness to compromise seems to be a trait in all religions.

      June 10, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  17. Please

    Please jihad

    June 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
  18. phoodphite

    Thank God. I don't want an officer on the streets getting his weapon and his beard tangled up. And he might miss someone he's supposed to be tracking with all that time trying to get coffee and powdered donut stains under control.

    June 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  19. Kirk Cameron

    Just please no jihad.

    June 10, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
  20. Meir Weiss

    Reblogged this on Meir Weiss' Blog.

    June 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.