Archive for Friday, January 22, 2010

Local Jewish community making effort to educate after Thursday incident on airplane

Tefillin, though obscure, not sinister

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, right, demonstrates how a Tefillin is wrapped onto the arm of Kansas University student Charles Goldberg, of Chicago. Inside the Tefillin boxes, worn by observant male Jews over age 13, are parchments with verses from the Torah. Tiechtel is executive director of Lawrence’s Chabad Center for Jewish Life. Below: Goldberg wears a Tefillin on his head.

Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, right, demonstrates how a Tefillin is wrapped onto the arm of Kansas University student Charles Goldberg, of Chicago. Inside the Tefillin boxes, worn by observant male Jews over age 13, are parchments with verses from the Torah. Tiechtel is executive director of Lawrence’s Chabad Center for Jewish Life. Below: Goldberg wears a Tefillin on his head.

January 22, 2010


Jewish community urging understanding

The KU Jewish community is stressing the importance of understanding after a Jewish tradition caused concern on an airplane. The Jewish prayer tradition involves equipment that was confused for a bomb. Enlarge video

With a black box strapped to his arm and another to his head, Charles Goldberg stood inside Chabad Center for Jewish Life at Kansas University, where he recited and sang prayers.

It’s a unique tradition Jewish males over the age of 13 are supposed to do every morning.

The local Jewish community is on a mission to educate, after a US Airways Express pilot diverted his jet Thursday morning to Philadelphia when a teen wrapped himself up in straps and began the routine during a flight between New York and Kentucky.

“Understandably, it could cause concern,” said Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Center executive director. “It’s got straps, it’s got a box, some people call it the Jewish blood pressure.”

Practicing Jews spend between 5 minutes and 1 hour every morning but Saturday performing the activity, a custom Tiechtel said connects them with God.

“What’s upsetting is that this is a really beautiful, very safe, obviously religious custom and so many people are just afraid of the most simple things,” said Goldberg, 22, a Kansas University senior from Buffalo Grove, Ill. “We really have to overcome ignorance and really, really figure out what people are doing before we start jumping to conclusions.”

Tiechtel was understanding of the flight crew’s suspicion, but said it presents an opportunity to teach the community about the ritual of wearing the unique props, called Tefillin, during their prayer.

“I’m most comfortable we’re overcautious rather than under-cautious,” the rabbi said Friday morning. “As an educator, I feel it’s important people should know what this is all about, so next time they’re on a plane and I’m the one praying, no one throws me off the plane.”

Inside the Tefillin boxes are four compartments where the Jewish men place parchments with special handwriting inside that include the words of the Jewish bible. The tradition is never done at night, is one of three daily prayers and if dropped, requires a 24-hour period of fasting, Tiechtel said.

Chabad Center, 1203 W. 19th St., received several phone calls from people about the religious custom after the incident.

The rabbi said he approaches flight attendants ahead of praying on a flight, so they know what he’s up to. But he sent an e-mail to the 17-year-old who caused the stir, congratulating him for pulling out his props and praying as soon as he could in the morning, as the religion suggests.


ldvander 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ksjayhawk74 8 years ago

@ ldvander...

Really? Do you think you just figured out a better way to be Jewish?

Steve Jacob 8 years ago

A "Moral Orel" reference! Love it!

Sulla 8 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Are the Tefillin boxes necessary for all Jewish prayer or for specific prayers or specific prayer time? I realize many people are nervous flyers and pray during a flight. However, if the boxes are used specifically for morning prayer, then it seems to me that in these times of fear of terrorists, it is somewhat foolish to me to pull out these boxes, strap them on and begin praying, I'm guessing in Hebrew. I doubt the average non-Jewish person will recognized the Hebrew language when spoken and I'm sure it could easily be confused with Arabic to anyone who doesn't know either language.

ivalueamerica 8 years ago

so, basically, jersey girl, because people are ignorant Jewish people should hide themselves so the idiots are more comfortable.

God said the meek shall inherit the earth, not the stupid.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

I'm sorry, where did I say that Jewish people should hide themselves? Anyone of any religion should be able to practice as they wish when and where they want. I simply said that in this time of terror, it seems foolish to me put these boxes on and begin praying. I left out that I meant on an airplane because I thought it was obvious since I was posting in response to the above article. I commend this young man for his faith and his resolution to follow the tenets. I just don't feel that he used his best judgment to do this on a plane.

Kent Kossoy 8 years ago

I suppose he probably should not have started his prayer with "Praise to Allah" in arabic and nobody would have become excitable. :-)

Tom McCune 8 years ago

So, Rabbi, how about educating your own people about not acting hinky on airplanes? With 150 people crammed into a flying sewer pipe, but with no immediate dangers, everybody of all religious persuasions ought to be able to stifle their ritualistic needs for an hour or two.

If that doesn't work, just tell them we're at war. Everybody is always at war with somebody, and it's a convenient one-size-fits-all excuse to weasel out of almost all religious rituals.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

I think even without the boxes, someone saying and singing prayers in Hebrew, which can probably be easily confused by us stupid people for Arabic, would cause panic on a plane these days.

Jersey_Girl 8 years ago

Pywacket - Welcome to the Stupid Section!

ivalueamerica 8 years ago


I realize you have a lot of fun changing and adding meanings that are not there, then attacking them, but that just makes you dishonest.

No one ever said or suggested you should know every prop, just that your ignorance should not lead to yelling terrorist or you end up like the boy who cried wolf. You ignorance lies in the fact that you are unreasonable, not that you are without knowledge.

And it is interesting Marion decides to comment here since he favors authors who claim the Holocaust was not all that bad.

puddleglum 8 years ago

just like a burqa, a bomb could easily be hidden inside the box and terrrorists would love to disguise themselves as a jew-so it is obvious that this activity be banned from airplanes.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years ago

Freedom to practice ones faith is well established in this country. If you are uncomfortable with any particular practice stifle it for two hours or so. What is stupid is planes being turned around for no good reason.

skinny 8 years ago

How about just using a little bit of common sense?????

mr_right_wing 8 years ago

Wow, a higher number than usual removed comments. I didn't realize we had this many anti-Semites. Can't say my jaw hit the floor though.....

gccs14r 8 years ago

Yeah, a 17-year-old kid in a yarmulke is surely a Muslim terrorist. :eyeroll:

LoveThsLife 7 years, 12 months ago

Some individuals on here need to educate themselves before making such stupid comments. The Jewish morning prayer has to be done a few hours after sunrise. The boy was an Orthodox Jew and didn't have time to says his prayers before he boarded. In addition, Jews have been doing this for THOUSANDS of years. Don't blame them for your ignorance. I'm not even Jewish and I know this.

Seriously, we have some close minded Americans here.

thatonedude 7 years, 12 months ago

That's right everyone, because people are edgy and scared of terrorists, followers of a religion that most of the people you think of you hear the word "terrorist" these days hate should not be able to practice. And for those suggesting a local rabbi speak to famous Jews you don't like... please, just do us all a favor and get a life.

Sean Livingstone 7 years, 12 months ago

To all religions.... for the sake of everyone on the planes and the air crews, it'd be better if you educate yourself not to practice religions on the plane. God will definitely forgive you for the sake of other people's life. What's the problem for missing one or two prayers while flying, but expect others to learn about your religions? How do I know what a Sikh will do? How do I know what a Jew will do?

thatonedude 7 years, 12 months ago

To somebody devoutly religious, praying at exactly the right time is incredibly important. What other people think is about as relevant to the guy wrapping tefillin on the plane as it is to the FCA club at my old high school praying around the flagpole every morning.

Leslie Swearingen 7 years, 12 months ago

How do I know what someone like Roeder would do?

kugrad 7 years, 12 months ago

There is a novel I enjoyed by the author Dara Horn that involves Tefellin in the storyline. I'm not Jewish, but I think if you were you might enjoy the book even more as I might be missing some of the subtext. Very recommended author. The title of this particular book is "In the Image."

feeble 7 years, 12 months ago

Were this story about some guy with a rosary, and not a Terfillin, the forum would be full of posters crying about the war on Christianity.

It is disappointing to see so many folks here are willing to give up religious freedom for a little safety. Perhaps one day they will wake up and realize that the religious freedom they're giving away is their own.

Tom McCune 7 years, 12 months ago

So, where are all the FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster) guys? Surely they can concoct some mandatory ritual they can demand to practice on every trip of the flying sewer pipes? Just as long as it doesn't involve the flight attendants co-mingling the marinara and bolognese which, of course, brings on a full year of uncleanness.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 12 months ago

There is plenty of stupid to go around here.

Stupid religious superstition rituals.

Stupid passengers on the airplane overreacting.

Stupid air controllers for diverting the plane.

And seriously. Did this kid need to do his fairy-tale rituals on the plane at that time? Couldn't he have waited?

gccs14r 7 years, 12 months ago

I think a radical Muslim would rather cut his own head off than put a yarmulke on it, so there's probably not much danger there. Besides, this was a kid traveling with his sister, not some nutter setting fire to his underwear.

Jersey_Girl 7 years, 12 months ago

“Understandably, it could cause concern,” said Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Center executive director. “It’s got straps, it’s got a box, some people call it the Jewish blood pressure.”

Even the rabbi interviewed for this story felt that this practice might upset some folks. I don't think most people here are anti-Semitic; I think most are simply calling for a modicum of hcommon sense. If this boy is an Orthodox Jew, then I presume whomever made his plane reservations was aware of this fact and that he would want or need to pray relatively soon after sunrise. Now, as I understand it, the plane departed NY around 7:30 am, which is approximately sunrise. The young man had several hours, meaning more than 2, to perform his prayers. So he could have waited until after the plane landed. Or, if it was his practice to pray as soon after sunrise as possible, whomever made his reservations should have allowed for that and made his reservations at a different time of day. It has been almost 8-1/2 years since 9/11 and this is the first story of this kind that I have heard, which tells me that most other Orthodox Jews have had the common sense to pray before or after his flight.

ralphralph 7 years, 12 months ago

Seems like I remember that the free exercise of religion is subject to reasonable limitations as to time, place and manner of the observance. As such, "on an airplane" seems to be a reasonable place to impose such limits ... just as the exercise of free speech is limited such that one may not discuss highjacking or bombs in the airport or on a plane, even if they are joking about it. Yes, people often act like idiots in response to their perception of the danger of terrorism, but the danger is real, even if less prevalent than its perception. If you are so devout that you can't cope with that, I would suggest an alternative mode of transportation may be in order.

skyking 7 years, 12 months ago


Plurilingual 7 years, 11 months ago

Orthodox Jews lay tefillin regularly on El Al flights, which is regarded by many to be one of the most secure air lines in the history of manned aviation.

There is nothing harmful about this tradition. Security checks should happen before passengers board the plane.

With that said, he should have been aware of his circumstances and made sure that others, particularly the flight crew, were aware of what he was doing and its religious significance. Bottom-line: 17-year old kid acts like a normal teenager and does something without thinking through the possible consequences.

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