For decades observant Jews have attempted to join the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD). Unfortunately due to training and work scheduling the BCFD policies prevented observant Jews from joining the department. That all changed with the election of Councilman Isaac Yitzy Schleifer. Three weeks ago, the BCFD graduated its first orthodox member of the BCFD.
Councilman Schleifer was approached by a community member whose lifelong dream was to be able to help save lives and become a professional fire fighter. Being presented with myriad bureaucratic hurdles, Councilman Schleifer committed himself to find compromise and resolution. He spent countless hours reviewing the current policies and worked tirelessly with BCFD leadership to find ways to accommodate his constituent’s dream to serve the citizens of Baltimore City. Recently, his hard work came to fruition.
When asked what motivated him to put so much time into getting the BCFD accommodation, the Councilman enthusiastically responded, “my faith teaches that, to save just one life is to save a world, there is no higher calling than to work in a lifesaving profession like the fire department. In 2018, I could not see why there wasn’t a way to make this happen. I was impressed with BCFD leadership and especially Chief Ford for taking the issue seriously and working with me to understand the challenges that Jewish observance could present. No individual of any religion should have to make a choice between serving their faith and serving the citizens of Baltimore City. It is a proud day for this dedicated new firefighter, his community and the BCFD.”
Reflecting upon yesterday’s BCFD graduation, Baltimore City Fire Department Chief Niles Ford stated, “The Baltimore City Fire Department prides itself on its diversity. Our most recent graduating class of cadets is illustrative of the makeup of our great City. Diversity and inclusion in the workplace has been proven in all industries as a best practice.”
Nathan Willner, President of the Cheswolde Neighborhood Association, when asked about this milestone commented, “for too long, members of my community have been told, “that’s just the way it is”. That defeatist attitude is no longer part of our mindset. Today we can say, “that’s just the way it was”. With Councilman Schleifer’s can-do, proactive leadership style, there is nothing that is off the table. If he sees the need, he has the conviction to get it done. It’s a new day for our community.”
(YWN World Headquarters – NYC / Baltimore Jewish Life)