Police Academy recruit Fishel Litzman got the boot for refusing to trim his beard.
(Image Copyright Norman Y. Lono 2012.)
Then, a bit sadly, he added, “I’m a newly minted civilian.”
Litzman, a 38-year-old Hasid, said the NYPD did not state a reason on his dismissal papers.
“They didn’t give me anything,” he said. “I don’t understand what the problem would be.”
Litzman’s lawyer said the problem is religious discrimination.
“They knew from when he took the exam and applied that he would not trim his beard,” said Nathan Lewin, a legal heavyweight who has fought and won beard battles on behalf of observant Jews with the Army and Air Force.
“He said from the outset it was a matter of religious observance. He never made a secret of it.”
Isaac Abraham, an activist in Brooklyn’s Hasidic communities, said it was a shame that allowances couldn’t be made for Litzman’s beard.
“I can’t see where a whisker would cause somebody to be fired if he does his job,” he said.
The NYPD’s chief spokesman insisted they made every attempt to accommodate Litzman.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly signed off on the firing Thursday, but sources said Litzman’s ouster had been in the works for several months.
Litzman was cited the first time Jan. 27 for his unkempt beard. Then he was issued a command discipline from Jan. 30-Feb. 2 — all for failure to maintain his personal appearance.
While Litzman rocked the tests with scores of 99, 100 and 96, he also got written up for minor mistakes like being in the locker room too early and forgetting his gym gear, sources said.
In a March 18 memo to the NYPD, Litzman defended his performance and stated that “as an Orthodox hasidic 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, underlining the sentence.
He also wrote passionately about his desire to be a city cop, while 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 G-d and my love of the NYPD can coexist.”
A source familiar with Litzman’s progress described him as “a great recruit” who holds a rabbinical degree, is fluent in both Hebrew and Yiddish, and used to be a paramedic.