Aircraft Was Diverted To Philadelphia
A religious item called a tefillin
being used by a Jewish teenager on board a US Airways flight from
New York to Louisville was mistaken for a bomb, and the flight made
an unscheduled stop in Philadelphia while a bomb squad checked it
The item is a series of black boxes with leather straps attached
containing biblical passages. One is placed on the head, while the
other goes on an arm.
Fox News reports that the teenager described the ritual when
asked by the crew, but airline officials said the explanation was
not clear, and so they decided to divert to Philadelphia, where
they were met by the FBI and TSA.
The plane landed without incident, and passengers were
questioned while the airplane was searched. FBI Spokesman J.J.
Klaver said the teenager, who was traveling with his 16-year-old
sister, was ultimately cleared to continue on to Louisville.
There were 15 passengers on the flight operated by Chatauqua
Airlines for US Airways. All were re-booked on other flights to
As to the item "It's something that the average person is not
going to see very often, if ever," Klaver said.
Following the incident, Agudath Israel of America, a national
organization representing Orthodox Jews in the United States,
issued the following statement:
"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
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."