Rabbi Sanford Dresin, a retired Army chaplain and director of Aleph’s military programs, will administer the oath to Rabbi Stern on Friday. While the settlement with the Army does not change the rule on facial hair, he hopes it will help ease the exemption process for future rabbis.
“If the Army can live with the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ I think it can live with a few bearded rabbis,” said Rabbi Dresin, who does not wear a beard.
Rabbi Dresin called Rabbi Stern “the ideal candidate” for the chaplaincy and said he admired his tenacity and excitement about the job.
“He’s like a kid in a candy store, he’s so excited,” he said.
A spokesman for the Army did not respond to calls seeking comment.
Rabbi Stern, 29, will go through chaplain training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. He is taking a leave of absence from his management job in the financial industry for his Army Reserves post but hopes to be called to active duty soon. He said he’s relieved he can finally move forward in a job he sees as bringing goodness to the world by ministering to soldiers, though he wishes it wasn’t such a fight.
“I was expecting that I would be accepted the way I am, not that I would have to fight and make headlines,” he said.