A man who dreamed of being in law enforcement has been booted by the New York Police Academy just a month before getting his badge, and he claims it’s because he refuses to trim his beard due to his faith.
“I always wanted to be a police officer,” Fishel Litzman told the New York Daily News. “This was unfortunate. … I’m a newly minted civilian.”
Litzman is a Hasidic Jew, who follows the Old Testament command in Leviticus 19:27, which states, “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”
Litzman, 38, said the NYPD did not specify why he was dismissed Friday, saying “They didn’t give me anything. I don’t understand what the problem would be.”
But his beard has been an issue of concern previously.
The Daily News says sources indicate Litzman’s ouster was in the works for several months.
For instance in March, Litzman’s instructors said he should be fired after he was disciplined repeatedly for failing “to maintain personal appearance,” according to the sources.
He reportedly was cited Jan. 27 for his unkempt beard, then issued a command discipline from Jan. 30-Feb. 2, all for failure to maintain his personal appearance.
Litzman’s lawyer is Nathan Lewin, who has previously won beard battles on behalf of observant Jews in the Army and Air Force.
“They knew from when he took the exam and applied that he would not trim his beard,” Lewin said. “He said from the outset it was a matter of religious observance. He never made a secret of it.”
Lewin told the Associated Press Saturday night: “We’re going to be deliberating and considering what the steps are that we’re going to take.”
Litzman had strong test scores of 99, 100 and 96, but also had been cited for minor issues such as being in the locker room too early and forgetting his gym gear, according to the Daily News.
The paper said that in a March 18 memo to the NYPD, Litzman defended his performance and stated that “as an Orthodox Chasidic Jew it is absolutely forbidden in my religious beliefs to cut or trim my beard in any way. I am being disciplined only because I maintain my religious beliefs and observances,” he wrote, going so far as to underline the sentence.
He also wrote about his fervent desire to be a police officer for the city, while at the same time remaining true to his faith.
“I will not waver in my firm belief that I can be a successful member of the NYPD and an Orthodox Chasidic Jew at the same time,” he wrote. “I believe that my love of God and my love of the NYPD can coexist.”