The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — calls upon airlines to exercise sensitivity in enforcing its mask policies. On multiple occasions in recent months, Orthodox Jewish families were publicly embarrassed and removed from their flights due to young children who are unable to wear masks. Airlines have broad leeway to make exceptions from their mask policies. The failure of some airlines to make exceptions for young children who are unable to wear masks represents unacceptable cruelty to children and large families. The fact that flight attendants have repeatedly enforced this rule specifically on Orthodox Jewish families, who constitute a small part of the population, raises additional questions of bias that demand attention. This is especially true in light of the broad support these families receive from other passengers while the flight attendants enforce this cruel rule.
Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (RAA) expressed how “outraged the RAA feels at these blatant acts of disrespect and possible anti-Semitism perpetrated by airlines against their Jewish passengers. It is highly disturbing that flight attendants can treat passengers in such shameful and callous ways. Children do not refuse to wear masks for ideological reasons. Sometimes they simply cannot handle the masks. Parents with young children must be accommodated so young families do not become stranded.
“As rabbis, we have been at the forefront in educating our congregants to adhere to the sound advice and policy of the medical authorities when it comes to social distancing and mask wearing. It hurts when an airline punishes its adult passengers who are in full compliance and merely struggling with the challenges of parenting young children. Such callousness toward customers causes the public to lose confidence in the good will of the airline.”
The Rabbinical Alliance of America condemns the recent incidents that transpired with Jewish passengers who were wrongfully humiliated and publicly shamed. These airlines must apologize and take all corrective necessary steps in holding responsible all those involved in this abuse of its passengers. Airline policies regarding young children must be changed and young families, particularly those who are visibly Jewish, must be made to feel like they are valued customers.