Coast Guard Allows Kippot

One of our astute readers pointed out that the Coast Guard recently changed its uniform policy to allow service members to wear yarmulkes while in uniform.

The change did not come easy. When Jack Rosenberg went to join the Coast Guard, he explained that his religion required him to wear a kippah at all times. The Coast Guard initially turned him away, saying that the unauthorized headgear was not allowed in uniform. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind of New York took up Rosenberg’s fight and convinced the Coast Guard to change it’s uniform policy to allow religious items.

“The Coast Guard listened to reason here,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement to The New York Sun last night. “A yarmulke doesn’t impact anyone’s ability to serve our country. No one should ever have to choose between honoring their religion and keeping their job, especially our servicemen and women.”

Evidently, because the Coast Guard falls under the Dept. of Transportation, their uniform policy slipped through the cracks when the other services changed their uniform policy in the 80s. Coast Guard representatives said that the policy was under review before Rosenberg’s complaint and that his speaking up did not initiate the change. However, it’s fairly obvious that it helped move things along.

You can read all the details in the New York Sun.


  • Allen Falk, National Judge Advocate, JWV

    The Jewish War Veterans of the USA also wrote to the Coast Guard uniform Board objecting to their policy.

  • Great job. I think it goes along way to assist the Jewish men in women in uniform.

  • This is good that the Coast guard has made that change for the better. It is also department of defense policy that Jews should be able to wear their Kippot in uniform, but the Marine Corps policy on kippot in uniform is contrary to that of the DOD. We need more yidden to speak out for those few observant marines we have.

  • Moishe Lewack

    This was a great policy change. It validated my decision to wear my kippah (yarmulke) full time while in uniform 5 years ago when I became Ba’al Teshuvah.

    While it was a welcome change for me and other observant Jews, it also brought about a lot of disgruntlement from the rank and file of the Coast Guard. There are a lot of non-Jews who are ticked off that they can’t still wear their crosses or religious medallions while in uniform.

    Some Jews in the Coast Guard and other services who are not Orthodox are nervous about it. They seem to think the wearing of yarmulkes might bring about more negative scrutiny of Jewish servicemen and women and more proselytizing by other faiths of Jews who don’t wear yarmulkes or are not Orthodox. Then there are those who are neither Orthodox Jews or church-going Christians who feel that anyone showing religious pride is a nut case.

    What I have said above is not very far from the truth, as others outside my previous unit (I am retired now) have expressed these sentiments in conversations online and in person.

    My sentiment is that Orthodox or Observant Jews (those who are not Orthodox, but still consider themselves observant and regular shulgoers) should be able to join the Coast Guard and serve honorably without compromising their religious values. The yarmulke and tzitzis (absolutely required by Jewish law, it’s in the Sh’ma) are just two items that demonstrate Jewish commitment.

    In a mostly non-Jewish environment where Christian holidays and ceremonies are openly practiced and advertised, why is it that when Jews want to espouse their religious values that a few non-Jews

    and Jews rail against this change?

    Well I am retired now, but I still wear my yarmulke and sometimes my tzitzis at my present job (as a civilian, in Washington, DC).

  • The actual article notes that he is with an Auxiliary unit, not enlisted. Though this may reflect in terms of the Coast Guard and kippot, I’m not sure him functioning as a Chassid in an *Auxiliary* unit should speak on all facets of observance across the spectrum of service in the Coast Guard. I myself am VERY curious to find anyone with experience *entering* in the Reserves as an Observant person; anyone?

  • As a retired Coast Guard officer and also a member of the JWV, I feel the need to explain that the Coast Guard Auxiliary is a civilian organization which is of great assistance to the Coast Guard, especially in the area of boating safety and search and rescue. Auxiliarists are unpaid and offer a valuable service to the American public. However they are neither military nor members of the Armed Forces of the United States. The original articles concerning Mr. Rosenberg’s right to wear a kippah made it sound that he is an enlisted member of the U. S. Coast Guard. He is NOT.