Orthodox Group Calls for Better Training, Greater Understanding after Plane Diversion
NEW YORK, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Agudath Israel of America, a national organization representing Orthodox Jews in the United States, today issued the following statement regarding the diversion of a flight because of a misunderstanding of Jewish prayer protocols:
Today a U.S. Airways Express flight from New York to Louisville was diverted because an Orthodox Jewish 17-year-old wore his tefillin on the plane, prompting concern among passengers who were unfamiliar with this practice.
Tefillin, or phylacteries, are black leather boxes containing small sacred scrolls. They are tied to the arm and around the head with black leather straps during morning prayers.
For several years, Agudath Israel of America has worked closely with TSA to sensitize the agency to the various religious objects and practices of Orthodox Jews; this effort has been led by Rabbi Abba Cohen, Esq., Agudath Israel's Washington Director and Counsel. Agudath Israel has also reached out to airlines in America and throughout the world to promote a greater understanding of Jewish prayer rituals. Agudath Israel has advocated for, and continues to support, enhanced training for flight attendants.
"To facilitate training and awareness, we recently created a brochure explaining Orthodox customs for individual airlines, and would be happy to share this brochure with other airlines upon request," said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel's Ohio regional director who oversaw that project.
"At the same time," said Rabbi Mark Kalish, national director of government affairs for Agudath Israel of America, "we have also cautioned members of our own community that they must understand that many citizens may not be familiar with Jewish prayer rituals, and that they should explain the practice to individuals in authority before boarding planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transit."
Agudath Israel of America is fully aware of the challenges we face as a nation regarding the need to prevent terrorism and exercise extreme caution, but we hope that this incident will raise awareness among airline leaders, the traveling public, and members of our own community about the need for greater training and a higher level of understanding of Orthodox practices. An educated public, truly, is a safer public.
SOURCE Agudath Israel of America
This story represents not only a need to train our flight personnel in religious tolerance, but to train our news media as well. For goodness sakes, “a tefillin”??? And now tefillin is “a device.”
What the heck?
It is “tefillin” folks, not “a tefillin,” and yes, those tefillin boxes contain the most powerful substance the world has ever known: Scripture.
This 17 year-old boy was probably praying Amidah and couldn’t answer the flight personnel when they asked what he was doing. They freaked out and caused a major hassle—why? Because they have never been properly trained.
For goodness sakes, the TSA agents know what tefillin is and they get less training than flight crews!
Hey, Chautequa Airlines, how about a little training here? You are flying out of NYC—you know, home of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF RELIGIOUS JEWS.
Wake up! You owe this boy a free round-trip airfare to anywhere he wants to go after this.
Plane Quarantined After Being Diverted to Philadelphia
Thursday, January 21, 2010
A flight was diverted to Philadelphia from LaGuardia Airport after a passenger was reportedly mistaken for having a bomb.
The U.S. Air flight from LaGuardia to Louisville was diverted after a man allegedly strapped on a "tefillin," a device mistaken as an "explosive device," CBS 3 reports. A tefillin has two small black boxes with straps. One box is placed on the head and the other is tied to the arm.
A law enforcement official says the man questioned is not a threat.
The plane was quarantined in Philadelphia after a number of firetrucks and police officers met them on the tarmac.
Passengers were all safely taken off the USAir flight, run by Chautequa Air.
The airport is reportedly staying open and flights are not affected.