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Conflict over religion onboard airlines

Conflict over religion onboard airlines

From the New York Times:

A growing number of airline passengers, particularly on trips between the United States and Israel, are now sharing stories of conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men trying to follow their faith and women just hoping to sit down. Several flights from New York to Israel over the last year have been delayed or disrupted over the issue, and with social media spreading outrage and debate, the disputes have spawned a protest initiative, an online petition and a spoof safety video to protect ultra-Orthodox men from women seated next to them on airplanes.

Some passengers say they have found the seat-change requests simply surprising or confusing. But in many cases, the issue has exposed and amplified tensions between different strains of Judaism.

Jeremy Newberger, a 41-year-old documentary filmmaker who witnessed an episode on a Delta flight from New York to Israel, was among several Jewish passengers who were offended.

“I grew up Conservative, and I’m sympathetic to Orthodox Jews,” he said. “But this Hasid came on, looking very uncomfortable, and wouldn’t even talk to the woman, and there was five to eight minutes of ‘What’s going to happen?’ before the woman acquiesced and said, ‘I’ll move.’ It felt like he was being a yutz.”


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Roberta Kelm

I guess I’ll be in the #NotAllHasidim camp. 4 years ago, my mother-in-law sold her house to the neighboring Chabad after my father-in-law’s death (she went into assisted living as she was disabled and her husband was her primary caregiver). I was the one who worked closest with the Rabbi, being there when he came through to check out facilities and such. He was quite pleasant with me, even though I was a Gentile female — maybe it’s because it was a business relationship or maybe because California Hasidim are a bit looser, but there was no issue between the two of us. (Then again, my parents-in-law had a very good relationship with the Chabad, after a brief dustup when my brother-in-law would play his rock music a bit too loud.) They’re now using the house as a secondary kosher kitchen (for meat preparation), child care, and study space for Rabbinical students.

Christopher Donald

What is the difference between respecting a person’s right to wear religious clothing (priest collar, burkha, yarmulk etc) and respecting a person’s request not to sit next to someone of the opposite sex?

David Allen

Nothing if the airline in question has taken measures to accommodate that religious requirement. But even the Israeli airlines don’t appear to have provided that accommodation. So the issue is when the orthodox men throw a tantrum and embarrass & inconvenience other people on the flight.

Bro David

Philip Snyder

If you are travelling on a public conveyance, such as a bus, train, or airline airplane, you abide by the rules of the people running the transportation. If you require special rules, then you should either take the steps necessary to accommodate your own rules (such as booking flights together or booking the seat next to you) or you should develop your own transportation (Orthodox Jewish Airline where the men are on the left and women on the right).

Asking the airline to change to suit my desires is like my going into a kosher deli and asking for a pulled pork sandwich.

Sandra Selby

This happened to me a few years ago on a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv. I was asked to exchange an aisle seat (on a 10+-hour) flight for a middle seat because two Hasidic men didn’t want to sit next to me. It turned out that this was happening all over the plane. One person who was even more offended by this than I was a Reform-tradition rabbi participating in our interfaith trip. The advantage of the seat switch was that I sat beside him for the long and uncomfortable flight, and it was the beginning of a deep friendship. It still doesn’t excuse the rudeness with which I and other women were treated by the Hasidim on that flight. All in the name of religion. Really??

David Murray

Religion, actually faith, ought to be a guide in life for peace among people.

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