Dec 11, 2011
Bearded Rabbi Sworn into Army

Rabbi Menachem Stern has won a two-year legal battle to become an Army chaplain without having to shave his full beard.

NY Post

A rabbi from Brooklyn will enjoy a happier Hanukkah after winning a two-year legal battle to become an Army chaplain without having to shave the full beard required by his religious beliefs.

“I am ecstatic. I’m looking forward to embarking on this new mission. Hopefully, the work that I’m putting in should suffice to make the world a better place,” said Rabbi Menachem Stern, 29, of Crown Heights.

The married father of three girls — a member of the Chabad Lubavitch movement — wsa sworn in at a ceremony at the Shul Jewish Community Center in Surfside, Fla.

After learning in August 2008 that the Army was recruiting chaplains, an eager Stern sent in an application in early 2009 — making it clear he intended to keep his beard.

“Although we adapted to the modern world, we still maintain old-world values,” he wrote “By not trimming my beard, I represent the unadulterated view of the holy Torah, the way we believe a person should live.”

Army brass at first OK’d his application, but then did an about-face.

“In spring 2009, I got an e-mail from the Army telling . . . me [I was] fully qualified to serve as a chaplain. Then the following day, I got an e-mail letting me know there was mistake and I was on hold until they figured out the beard situation,” Stern recalled.

Stern asked for a waiver of Army policy that bans facial hair except for trimmed moustaches but was again denied — and an Army major tried to pressure him into shaving.

“Give me an update, are you prepared to shave the beard in compliance with Army regulation?” the major wrote in a May 2009 e-mail.
Stern refused.

New York Sens. Charles and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman joined the battle, writing to the Army on Stern’s behalf.

And last December, Stern filed a a federal lawsuit in DC arguing that the Army had let several Sikh and Muslim chaplains keep their beards.

The Army maintained that grooming standards promote discipline, obedience and safety, saying gas masks wouldn’t work on men with beards.
The two sides started negotiations last month, and a settlement was reached giving Stern an exemption on Nov. 22.

After 12 weeks of training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Stern will be ready for duty as a member of the Reserves.

In attendance at the ceremony were Rabbi Colonel Jacob Goldstein and Rabbi Shalom Ber Lipskar, Aleph's chairman and founder.



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Opinions and Comments
1
senator
nice to see that you're on a first name basis with the senator (whose last name, by the way, is schumer).
(12/11/2011 12:43:42 PM)
2
:) SMILE
mendy - smile! lifes not that tough!
(12/11/2011 1:37:31 PM)
3
mazal tov!
way to go!! keep up the good work!
(12/11/2011 1:59:13 PM)
4
awesomness!!!!
it seems we need more people to break through the pipe to let the others in easy! your fight is not your own, and neither is your victory rather your victory is the victory of all future chabad chaplans!! good job yasher koach!
i just became your fan! and i hope to see you in the news more often! gr8 kiddush hashem!
(12/11/2011 2:45:57 PM)
5
chaim
#2 there is a time to smile and a time to be serious ... during ceremony and swearing in is the serious time and party time is smiling time .. pics only show the serious time
(12/11/2011 2:46:39 PM)
6
beards in CH
C'mon guys here in CH, there aint no one forcing us to shave. Lets learn from this guy!
(12/11/2011 5:26:21 PM)
7
LTC Retired
Yasher koach, lieutenant! May your entire military career be as successful as this auspicious start.
(12/11/2011 7:27:59 PM)
8
GOOOOOO MENDY!!!!
Mendy your such an inspiration to us all!!!:)
(12/11/2011 7:37:27 PM)
9
beard not
maybe the reason why they hesitated to let him serve was not the beard, and the beard was a polite excuse that backfired. maybe we'll hear more about this man-of-the-cloth as time goes one.
(12/11/2011 9:11:23 PM)
10
to #9
not understanding what you wrote...but realizing it's not written to congratulate the big Kiddush Hashem Mendy Stern is making....
Which is showing on your part that you don't qualify in the saying of "Siyag Lachachma Shtika" -- Shut your mouth if you don't have something smart to say :)
(12/12/2011 7:50:17 AM)
11
Mazel Tov
Mazel Tov, Lieutenant! BLG
(12/12/2011 8:54:10 AM)
12
Mazal tov also goes to the better half
Mazal tov to both of you, mendy and R.B. and may you continue to give nachas to the Rebbe and your whole family.
(12/12/2011 11:41:41 AM)
13
yasher koach
This is a huge kiddush Hashem and an inspiration to bochrim like me. If I end up getting smicha I will definitely look into the chaplaincy, thanks to the trailblazing efforts of Rabbi Lt. Stern.
(12/12/2011 4:25:55 PM)
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