In many ways, Steve Riback is a typical All-American guy. Born and raised in Southern California, he grew up aiming to be an elementary school teacher. As Steve progressed in college in Nevada, however, he became restless. Motivated by the same desire to help others, he found himself pursuing a job as a policeman in Las Vegas. He wanted to be a warrior for good in his own way.

Little did Steve know how much of a warrior G‑d wanted him to be.

While Steve was Jewish, he wasn't raised observant. His family He wanted to be a warrior for good in his own way. would light the Chanukah candles and would do a mini seder for Passover, but for the most part, Steve never felt a true connection to Judaism. He simply was not exposed to it. However, he did believe in good values, and his parents raised him to "treat others the way he want to be treated."

But there was something missing. "I wanted something," Steve explains. "I just didn't know exactly what it was. I couldn't quite put my finger on it."

It wasn't until he spent a Shabbat at the Chabad of Green Valley that he truly understood his desire to connect to good. A spark was lit in him as he saw the rabbi's wife light the Shabbat candles From that moment, Steve wanted to know more and more. He started to read about Judaism from books and the internet, and by learning with rabbis. "It felt like I was going home," Steve recalls. "I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be."

Because he was working undercover at the time, he was able to grow a beard, and he was able to wear a hat. He started observing Shabbat.

But it was just as Steve was truly evolving into an observant Jew that he came up against opposition from the very place he least expected it... his own department.

At first, the "friction" caused by Steve's observances seemed to be easily overcome. On his first year observing Shabbat, he was asked to work on New Year's (like every police officer in Las Vegas), which happened to fall on a Saturday. Without much fuss, he was allowed to come in late to work. He was sure that all future situations would be just as easy to deal with.

He was wrong.

The Problems Begin

Steve's unit went out to eat every day at nonkosher restaurants. As he decided to become kosher, he wanted to be able to bring his own food to work. "That subsequently set off a flurry of issues. They said that whatever my sergeant said I had to do, I had to do. Without question."

While Steve was eventually able to bring in his own food, he started to become aware that being Jewish in the Las Vegas Police Department might not be as easy as he thought.

Steve was used to fighting against drug dealers, against prostitutes, against the evil in the world. Eventually, though, it became clear that Steve would have to fight against the very people that had provided him with the chance to bring good to the world.

Steve's voice turned gritty Steve would have to fight the very people that had provided him with the chance to bring good to the world. as he described the "painstaking" process he had to go through after his department decided they couldn't keep him on as an undercover policeman if he was observing Shabbat. With restrained frustration, he described how they gave him a desk job instead of putting him out in the field as he was used to. They hid him from public view.

And then, even after the department hid him from public view, they decided he had to cut his beard and uncover his head. His repeated requests to the department were denied. One reason they gave was that it was inappropriate to bring religion into the workplace.

But, according to Steve, religion had always been pervasive in the department. "People would wear crosses, for example." But Steve, who wanted to wear a short, trimmed beard and hat was denied.

"It was too important of an issue not to fight," explains Steve. He did not see this as a small case, but as the same fight Jews had been going through since they existed.

And so, Steve, with nothing more than his fervent faith, pushed forward and decided to challenge one of the top five police departments in the nation. His own employer. The very enforcer of the laws he believed in so much.

To this day, he is still very much in the midst of his battle. Aided by the help of several pro-bono lawyers, including some from the ACLU, he has been able to slowly and painstakingly fight for his rights by bringing a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Police Department.

"We won the right to permanently wear a beard in my current assignment and that court determined that the department had violated my civil rights." And while this was definitely a huge step forward, the department was able to prevent him from wearing a hat by changing their policies so that, although hats were allowed while Steve had asked for permission to wear one, they are now longer allowed at all.

The department has also changed other policies since Steve's lawsuit, such as disallowing anyone from ever being able to have a beard or wear anything religious. In an effort to fight against Steve's civil rights, they have further restricted the entire force's rights.

Since Steve began his battle with the department, he has been criticized strongly, not only by the outside world, but by the very people he believes he is fighting for: other Jews. He has been told to lay low, to not make a big fuss even if it is obvious that his rights are being violated.

What motivates Steve when even people from his own community attack him for his battle?

Steve's answer to this question is to look at people who, like him, have recently been in the news for the work they had done for the Jewish people. The Chabad House in Mumbai.

Steve, who had been quite professional throughout our interview, suddenly became incredibly emotional as he described how, "I started from a Chabad house. Just like the Mumbai house." He knew how important it was to light the sparks within Jews, how important it was to do your best no matter what situation you were put in. And it was people like Gabi and Rivki Holtzberg as well as his own Rabbi of Green Valley that inspired him to fight on, despite the odds being stacked against him. Despite the eyes on him.

As Steve's understanding of doing good has refined and become clearer he understands that "doing good starts from being proud of who you are." And as a Jew, he believes that he can't allow even a powerful police department to tell him that he can't be proud of his heritage and the laws of his G‑d.

And, just as the Mumbai attacks were met with a desire to do good, Steve has looked at his situation as an incredible opportunity.

While many people might crumble at so much opposition, Steve understands that G‑d has put him in this situation for a reason. And that reason is to fight for truth. To fight for justice. To fight for good.

Just like a good police officer.

Postscript from Steve:

January 27, 2009

Today I did something that I had not been allowed to do for over two years. The normal routine of taking off my kippah in the parking lot before entering my office will no longer happen again. For the first time in years, today I went to work wearing a head-covering and beard! My battle against the police department and their religiously discriminating policies is now officially over.

For over two years I fought an extremely hard battle, with the assistance of eight attorneys, to protect our inalienable religious rights and freedoms in this great country. This fight was not solely for Jews—it was for all religions! I took a stand against one of the biggest police departments in the country and I will forever be proud of what was accomplished.

As a result of the lawsuit and settlement, I will be able to keep my beard and wear a kippah under a hat at work. In addition, there is a new policy and procedure that has been implemented in order to prevent this type of discrimination from happening to someone else. The new policy, procedure, and rulings by the judge has established a nice new precedent!