Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tefillin in the Airport

One has to appreciate that this 17-year old who wore tefillin on a plane, resulting in its emergency landing in Philadelphia, and his sister were so polite and responsive and cooperative with the authorities. Hopefully this will be a big enough story that there won't be issues for others in the same situation. The comments on the mislabeled Times piece are interesting - certainly the news reports specifically note how polite he was; he was not "disruptive" as the Times put it. In the past friends have debated whether or not to put on tefillin while flying because of how it can be misunderstood (most people have never seen the little black boxes and straps, and it's easy to understand the concern), but usually we would avoid the issue. Sometimes it wasn't as avoidable, but on the rare occasion where someone asked, it was a simple and easy thing to explain. The issue we would have was with the rare guy who wouldn't respond to a flight attendant or passenger questioning the "strange" practice - use your common sense and explain briefly what's going on before they think you're a security threat. In today's story, it appears that he was never asked before the plane landed, and answered immediately when it did land. It's surprising that the flight attendant didn't even ask, and one would think that the lack of concern on the part of other passengers should have tipped her off that some may have seen this before, especially if she would have simply asked. Ah well.


  1. on the Times blog (where many comments were outrageous) i loved comment #17 "they did say strap yourself in"

    or #72 "I always feel a need to pray a little extra when flying to Louisville."

  2. I can't believe the lack of responsibility shown by the news media. Several have referred to this poor bochur as "dispruptive" and the FBI spokesperson said the "average" person would never have seen this ritual. Apparently Jews aren't everyday.

  3. most people haven't!

    But of a group of people flying out of New York City, surely many knew exactly what was going on. NYC has more Jews than any other city in the world!


  4. I just feel really bad for the guy. He must feel traumatized! Imagine being the cause of an emergency landing and then all this media coverage.

    Poor guy!

  5. This was leaving NEW YORK and no one in the flight crew had ever seen t'fillin? Isn't that odd in itself?

    There's an upside and a downside here. Upside: The young man was polite, and now everyone knows what t'fillin are and that they're not threatening. Downside: Orthodox Jews look really weird and backward for putting such strange things on their arms and heads to pray. Could be a chillul Hashem, G'd forbid!

  6. Why would it be so odd that the flight crew had never seen tefillin? Just because the flight originated from NY? The fact that we have so many Jews living here is irrelevant. You see many male Jews walking around the streets of NY wearing tefillin? Of course not! You see any pictures of Jewish groups in Jewish and/or secular publications where the men are decked out in tefillin? Nope. And it's quite possible that, since the flight was going to Kentucky, the flight crew originated from there. If you don't see tefillin displayed in NY all that often, just how often do you suppose they are seen in Kentucky?

    What the news report should have had was a picture of tefillin. At least that way people who otherwise would have no idea of what they were would now know in case such an incident were to happen again.

  7. ProfK, just as well there weren't a lot of pictures of tefilin printed in the papers. A real terrorist might figure he could use a fake set of tefilin as a decoy, and no one would suspect him because "he must be a religious Jew who's getting ready to pray."

  8. A 17 year old boy is just a kid. This experience must have been pretty traumatic for him.