Sunday, June 10, 2012

Monsey Lubavitcher in a Hairy Situation

By Jonathan Lemire and Joe Kemp / New York Daily News

A top Manhattan politician slammed the NYPD’s decision to boot a Hasidic recruit from the Police Academy because he would not trim his beard.

Fishel Litzman, who was just a month away from joining the force, refused to cut his scraggly fuzz because it would violate his religions beliefs — and was then drummed out of the NYPD.

Saying he was “deeply troubled” by the decision, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer declared Saturday that the NYPD had unfairly canned a deserving candidate.

“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,” said Stringer, “they are also required to make a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs.”

Stringer, a 2013 mayoral candidate, called on Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly to reconsider the ruling — but the city’s top cop would not touch the issue Saturday.

“I am not going to comment on it because it’s obviously going to involve litigation,” said Kelly. “I would simply say that (communication on the issue) has been ongoing for quite a while — since actually before this gentleman came into the Police Department.

“So there’s been a lot of notice, a lot of interaction, and I’m not going to say anything more about it because it will involve litigation,” Kelly said.

Litzman, a 38-year-old Lubavitch Hasid, claims he was never given an official reason for his dismissal.

He was cited the first time for his beard on Jan. 27 and was written up again a week later.

Litzman, a father of five, sent a memo in March to the NYPD explaining that he was forbidden to cut or trim his beard in any way.

He scored well on tests and was considered a promising recruit — but his beard was deemed a safety hazard, according to a police source.

The masks recruits wear during counterterrorism training don’t fit over the beard, the source insisted.

The firing was in the works for months and Kelly signed off on the dismissal Thursday, sources said.

The NYPD has two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers on the force. The men, who are permitted to observe the Sabbath and wear yarmulkes under their police caps, are required to keep their beards trimmed.