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Bearded rabbi allowed to join army without shaving

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NEW YORK (JTA) — A 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Rabbi Menachem Stern, whose approval to serve as an Army Reserve chaplain in 2009 was rescinded because he refused to shave his beard, will be allowed to serve after settling a lawsuit against the military, Chabad.org reported.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. 

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