A bearded Chabad rabbi has won his battle to join the U.S. Army without shaving his beard.
Rabbi Menachem Stern, whose approval to serve as an Army Reserve chaplain in 2009 was rescinded because he refused to shave his beard, will be allowed to serve after settling a lawsuit against the military, Chabad-Lubavitch News reported. Stern expects to be sworn into service next week and begin chaplain training in January.
Though army policy does allow religious waivers for beards on a case-by-case, the waivers had previously been granted only after the men entered the service clean-shaven.
In December, Stern filed a lawsuit against the military after attempts—aided by Senators Joe Lieberman, Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand—to receive a waiver failed.
According to the Aleph Institute, a Chabad organization that assists Jewish military personnel, there are currently 37 Jewish chaplains in the U.S. military, including nine rabbis on active duty.
The Aleph Institute will be live streaming Stern’s swearing in ceremony on Dec. 9.
Loved your video on getting a haircut and shave on Lag b’Omer. I think it’s great that you raise awareness about our customs and traditions.
I think you made one faux pas, however. Religious Jews don’t allow a razor to come in contact with their face when shaving, which is why Orthodox Jews use only electric shavers instead of razor blades.
Your barber wasn’t allowed to shave you, according to Jewish law. Jews who observe the custom of not shaving would’ve shaved using a Norelco or Remington instead.
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin Community & Synagogue Services Director Orthodox Union West Coast Region
Professor Anti-Semites Love
Why the righteous indignation (“The Professor Anti-Semites Love,” May 9)? The fact is that we are clannish, have a history of marrying within and not thinking positively of much of the outside culture. We do tend to select for mates along either intellectual or financial lines.
Historically, we have tended to benefit from niche businesses, such as banking during the primacy of Catholicism, when it was prohibited to Catholics, and entertainment during the primacy of Protestants, when they looked down on such businesses. We do tend to be far more visible, disproportionately to our numbers.
What professor Kevin MacDonald has done is to provide a laundry list of reasons why the losers can’t successfully compete against Jews and Jewish culture. I read the article, and I came away thinking that this bitter man is like many others who resent the need to change in order to compete.
It is true: Jews want to chuck the morally bereft outside culture. It is our mandate to be first a blessing to the world, then a kingdom of priests and a light unto the nations. Why be Jewish if Jewishness serves no purpose? We feel a moral elevation compared to outside culture based upon the mandate for our existence.
Of course, we are in conflict with non-Jewish culture. Our mandate requires us to influence the others, to convert outside society not to Judaism but to an enlightened Noahide society. Jewish culture and Jewish society developed in a direct response to the mandate.
It is most certainly benefiting our survival. When we are persecuted, we strengthen our ties with each other and to Judaism. When we are not persecuted, we rise to visibility in the face of non-Jews.
MacDonald is perfectly correct in many of his assumptions and observations. Rather than feel hurt from the truth, I would feel proud that even the least observant Jews have the spark to influence outside society, as seen by MacDonald’s assessment.
Craig Winchell via e-mail
Bad Cover Choice
After working for the U.S. Postal Service for 34 years, I retired recently. In high school, I was the school paper’s compositor for one year and its sports editor for two years. The Jewish Journal definitely needs my help in improving on whoever decides the covers of your paper.
I was upset and disgusted that you had a professor that anti-Semites love grace the cover [on May 9]. I purposely would turn the paper upside down so as not to look at his puss. And I wasn’t interested to read the article, even though my friend read it and asked if I had.
Please send me an employment application before you lose any more readers and advertisers due to your yellow journalism.
First, I hope I am not the first person to point out in Eshman’s column that he presented one Jewish point of view — and in my opinion, not the best — as to the nature of God and suffering. He consulted a rabbi who says, “I do not believe in a God who gets involved in the activities in individual human beings.”
Well it’s no wonder people abandon God — they feel like God abandoned him.
I love Suissa’s idea to have a Jewish festival. That way, once and for all, we can put it out on the table what are the different categories of Jewishness and what do they believe about that lifelong question that we have about God and religion: Why do bad things happen?
The answer we will get from the rabbi Eshman consulted will be clear. Yet, the answer from hopefully every other brand will hopefully have something a little more inspiring that will actually make someone want to connect to God.
Perhaps some people forget where the name “Jewish” comes from. It comes from the tribe of Yehudah, the name given to Leah’s fourth son. It was a name, meaning thank you — as in, Leah was thanking God for remembering her and giving her that fourth son. Remembering her — an individual.
So if someone wants to say they don’t believe in a God who gets involved in individual suffering, they have every right. But if they do, I wonder if they should be calling themselves Jewish.
But, of course, that is just my opinion. Everyone can figure it out for themselves at Jewish Fest 2009.
Liane Pritikin via e-mail
Regarding Rob Eshman’s article depicting the slowly destructive disease of ALA (Lou Gehrig’s disease), our cousin in Israel, David Cohen, was diagnosed with ALS in 2003, and one of the first things he did was to create a research and support organization called IsrALS.
I invite you and your readers to learn more about how we can increase research, especially with stem cell research, which is more accessible in Israel, to battle this “orphan” disease.