they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments…this shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the lord to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray
businesses get into trouble failing to appreciate their role, their actions, and purpose. the airline industry recently has subjected itself to many self inflicted wounds. “carry on” luggage has become an increasing problem. travelers, wishing to avoid luggage check in, bring “carry ons.” as a result, luggage bins have become overstuffed.
the airline industry’s core resolves around time. time sensitivity makes the challenge of loading passengers and carry ons extraordinary. steward’s jobs are compounded with by working within the tight confines. stewards must make snap judgments. stewards cannot take the time to “google” or seek additional authorities to get answers. this fact is appreciated.
this brings us to the dilemma faced by an american airlines crew. “snakes on a plane” was not the problem; it was “fringes on a plane!” an orthodox jewish couple, originally from argentina and now living in brooklyn, were traveling on american airlines. mr. roberto birman brought with him on the plane his “tallis bag” containing his prayer shawl and prayer book. the clear plastic bag made its contents obvious. according to the daily mail, “the unnamed stewardess was checking the overhead compartments when she came across roberto’s tallit bag…. put it on his lap and told him to stuff it under his seat. when the brooklyn couple refused, they were allegedly kicked off the plane.” dailymail.com
he explained to the steward that it was a religious item and could not be put on the ground. according to the report, the steward pointed their finger and started screaming. his wife, mrs. elena birman, commented “nobody said a word. nobody defended us. it was embarrassing.'” dailymail.com
the steward, with time, could have pulled out a reference source thousands of years old, the torah, to have confirmed the fringes’ veracity as a religious item. for many with common sense, the placing religious items on the ground would be something that might be offensive
in sum, when a business fails to appreciate that they ask their employees to make snap judgments and prepare them properly, these incidents will happen. perhaps this incident will be a wake up call for airlines to educate their staff about the variety of religious issues that might come up on a flight. religious communities, if asked, may be more than happy to supply the carriers basic information so that their staff can avoid unfortunate incidences.
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