Rabbi Elie Estrin Commissioned as Air Force’s Only Bearded Chaplain
Rabbi Elie Estrin (previously discussed here) recently graduated from Officer Training School, officially making him an officer in the Air Force Reserve — and the Air Force’s only chaplain wearing a beard:
During the five week Commissioned Officer Training Course, Rabbi Estrin ate Kosher MRE’s (ready-to-eat meals) and said that staff were fantastic about facilitating his required accommodations, some of which included his adherence to Shabbat and the 25 hour fast of Tisha Be’av, a day which commemorates the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem.
(Chaplain Menachem Stern currently serves in the US Army with a beard.)
Religious beards mark one of the most visible signs of religious accommodation in the US military — and, by extension, one of the most visible symbols of religion in the military. The visible and outward expression of faith may be why some oppose the military allowing religious exceptions to uniform standards. For now, Chaplain (Capt) Estrin’s service is unique, though perhaps one day Sikhs, too, will be able to serve without surrendering the articles of their faith.
An Army chaplain responded hopefully to Estrin’s announcement:
Soon it won’t be a novelty anymore. At least not until the first female chaplain with a beard wants to join.