Steven Chasin is the first to admit he isn’t the world’s most observant Jew.
Tattoos, a Jewish taboo, cover his burly body, while his shaved head goes bare. He doesn’t go to synagogue every Shabbat or keep all the laws of kashrut.
He doesn’t even hold what he calls a “Jewish type of job,” like being a doctor or a lawyer.
“I’m not the perfect Jew,” is how Chasin, a 40-year-old Fire Department paramedic from Virginia, puts it. But he has always strongly identified as one, and used outward symbols to reinforce the point, including the Star of David pendant that hangs around his neck and the full, brown beard that has graced his face for the past two decades.
“The beard is my way of celebrating and practicing,” he explains. “The beard is making up for some of the stuff I don’t do.”
So when Chasin was told that he would have to remove it to comply with fire department regulations, he didn’t take it well.
“It’s frustrating. It’s depressing also, because it doesn’t impact my job,” he says.
But that’s not how the Washington DC Fire Department sees it. It considers the regulation necessary for safety reasons, and threatens those who don’t comply with dismissal.
So Chasin, along with six Muslims and Nazarene Christians, filed suit, charging that they should be accommodated on grounds of religious freedom.
The District of Columbia District Court has sided with them, but the city is appealing. A hearing is scheduled for October 7. (MORE)