After Jewish Religious Item Prompts Flight Scare, B’nai B’rith Urges Enhanced Training of Air Personnel
Following the incident on US Airways flight 3709 from New York to Louisville on Jan. 21—which made an unscheduled landing when a flight attendant was alarmed by the Jewish religious article of a young passenger—B’nai B’rith International is urging aviation officials to more systematically equip both airline crew and airport security personnel with awareness of such common ritual objects.Beyond well-recognized objects like head coverings or prayer shawls, observant Jews employ phylacteries, better known as “t’fillin” in Hebrew, during particular prayer services. T’fillin are small sealed black boxes containing parchment with biblical verses professing devotion to God, which are attached to leather straps wrapped to one’s arm and worn on one’s head during most weekday morning prayers. Many Jews travel with such sacred articles and make quiet use of them at designated times without impacting or disturbing others.
While continuing to very strongly endorse rigorous security procedures to ensure the safety of travelers, B’nai B’rith believes that lessons should be learned from this incident. More uniform familiarity with important religious objects, their normative use and their appropriate handling, will lead to better understanding and would avoid misapprehensions in the future.
“We fully comprehend that this was a misunderstanding and that the passengers on US Airways flight 3709 were acting based on a lack of familiarity with Jewish customs,” said B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick. “We want to teach others about Jewish practices so that this sort of confusion will not happen again.”
“The world is justifiably concerned about attacks on airlines right now and we want to help build a system through which threats can be accurately identified,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Religious practices and objects may seem unfamiliar to those outside of the religion. Through education, we can avoid future confusion.”
B’nai B’rith is communicating its appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, and the International Civil Aviation Organization, offering assistance in educating trainees on Jewish religious items and practices.