NEW YORK (VINnews) — A frum couple was allegedly thrown off an American Airlines flight and humiliated by the flight crew. Their offense — refusing to place a pair of tefillin on the floor.
According to a lawsuit, the incident took place in August, when Menchem (aka Roberto) and Elana Birman were flying home from Miami on American Airlines. Menachem’s zekel was relatively small, and held his tefillin, tallis, and a siddur.
Before takeoff, a stewardess checked the overhead compartments, pulled out the tefillin bag, and asked whom it belonged to. Menachem told her that it was his, and she allegedly threw it on his lap and demanded that he place it under his seat.
He replied, “It’s a religious item, it cannot go under the seat.” He then removed a baseball cap, showing his yarmulka, and explained that it’s prohibited to place tefillin on the floor.
The flight attendant did not care, and allegedly screamed and pointed at Menachem.
“I couldn’t believe this was happening to me in America,” he said. “We use these items every single day to pray.”
Sadly, none of the other passengers came to their defense. “Nobody said a word. Nobody defended us. It was embarrassing,” Mrs. Birman said.
The couple said that the pilot came over but he did not speak to them. They were then escorted off the flight, and as soon as they were ushered out, one crew member allegedly said, “Close the gate!”
“What are we, criminals?” Elana remembers thinking. She said her husband “was devastated.”
Making matters worse, they were forced off the plane without Menachem’s diabetes medicines, which were still in their luggage.
The Birmans, who have been married 52 years and have four kids, have filed a lawsuit against American Airlines.