Friday, December 25, 2009

We Went Through This in Israel in 1990, No?

The beard that Matthias Goldstein has worn since high school - full, but trimmed short - didn't seem to be a problem during his first 15 years as a medic with the Pikesville Volunteer Fire Co.

It didn't prevent him from answering thousands of calls while staffing Saturday nights at the Baltimore County firehouse, or serving as an instructor in basic life support, advanced life support and EMT recertifcation, or being named the company's paramedic of the year in 2003.

But now his beard is at the center of a legal dispute over fire safety, religious practice and - Goldstein believes - rivalry between neighboring volunteer rescue agencies.

Earlier this year, Goldstein and two fellow Orthodox Jews were told they could not ride on emergency calls because their beards might interfere with breathing masks that the Pikesville company was considering buying for its medic corps.

The three men - Goldstein, Avi Gross, a paramedic recruit who hadn't begun to ride with the company, and Avi Green, a medical technician who was denied a job - maintain their beards in obedience to Torah injunctions against "rounding the corners of the head" and "marring the corners of the beard." Shaving, they say, is not an option.

After months seeking some sort of accommodation - months in which, Goldstein says, other medics were not required to wear the Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus - they have filed complaints with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


No comments: