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TSA Talking Tefillin: Agency Aims To Help Personnel Avoid Misunderstandings

Washington, DC – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has taken steps to educate its personnel as to the nature, contents and use of tefillin, adding information about them to briefing materials for security officials across the nation.

Agudath Israel of America’s Washington Director and Counsel, Rabbi Abba Cohen, called the TSA move “a welcome development that should go far in clearing up potential misunderstandings on the part of agency employees and the public regarding a religious article that Jewish travelers sometimes may carry or wear aboard aircraft.”

Representing the national Orthodox Jewish organization, Rabbi Cohen first raised the tefillin issue with the TSA several years ago, when a number of constituents reported problems they encountered at airport security checkpoints.  At that time, Rabbi Cohen explained to agency officials the religious obligation to wear tefillin, what the ritual entails, and — using a pair of dismantled tefillin — showed officials how the items are made and what they contain.

At that time, the TSA responded positively to Agudath Israel’s presentation, and undertook to include within its training manuals information to familiarize its officers with tefillin, and to offer guidance on screening procedures.  Work on the specific issue of tefillin training continued while TSA addressed complex concerns regarding headwear screening procedures – another area of importance to the Orthodox Jewish community and of cooperation between Agudath Israel and TSA.

In the interim, other Agudath Israel efforts were undertaken to help better acquaint airline industry personnel with Jewish practices.  A special brochure was even produced by the Orthodox group that described Jewish prayer, rituals and customs.

“We are gratified by the TSA’s sensitivity on this issue,” says Rabbi Cohen, “and are pleased to have collaborated with it in developing the new guidance.

“Better information can only lead to our mutual goals – not only of religious sensitivity but of more effective security.”

(YWN Desk – NYC)

4 Responses

  1. Hey, great idea! They should bein a Chabad Shliach on El Al to teach the non-frum stewards and stewardeses how to put on Tefillin!

  2. This is, I am afraid, not such a pashut issue.
    Once the terrorists know that tefillin are no longer considered a threat, they COULD use them to hide explosives in!
    The REAL answer for airport/airplane security is to do what ElAl security does – i.e. screen the individual person.
    Everyone who has ever flown ElAl knows that before check in, they ask you a bunch of questions. They are not so interested in the answers as they are in HOW you answer and how you look, i.e. nervous, tense, etc.
    Until all countries do this type of screening there will be no real security.

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