Tallitצילום: ISTOCK

A Jewish couple has been traumatized on a plane

The question is…what would you do if faced with a situation like this; whereby a Jewish couple were allegedly booted off a plane over a Tallit.

I say allegedly because we only know what we read in the papers.

So according to the New York Post…by far the best newspaper in the land…Roberto and Elana Birman were on an American Airlines flight returning to Brooklyn from a stay in Miami.

Roberto is 76, Elana is 71, and from the looks of them, downhome Yiddishe people, and not exactly Bonnie and Clyde.

Nor is it likely that people bolt their doors and hide the children when the couple, married 52 years, stroll by, because, who knows, Mr. Birman might be packing a Tallit.

We pick up the story as a flight attendant. making her usual pre-takeoff rounds on Flight 322…and behold, a Tallit.

The sacred shawl, as per usual, was secured in a plastic bag, and there it was, in the overhead bin, above Mr. Birman…bothering nobody.

Except a flight attendant.

As I imagine the conversation…

“Sir, does this belong to you?”


“What is it?”

“It’s a Tallit.”

“A what?”

“A prayer shawl that is holy to me and my people.”

“Well it has to be taken down and placed underfoot.”

“But that would be sacrilege.”

“Rules are rules.”

To quote Mr. Birman, “She was screaming at me and pointing her finger.”

We can imagine the horror when a figure of authority takes that attitude. Reasoning doesn’t help. Makes it worse.

Some people you just can’t reach.

Some people have it in for you from scratch.

We know it when facing hearts of stone at the motor vehicle bureau, and other places where they get to lord it over you.

We all know the feeling when someone dislikes you over nothing you said or did, quite the opposite of love at first sight, but there it is.

Does it have to be anti-Semitism? Could be. But it can also be the new incivility and coarseness that has overtaken the United States.

On this flight, Mr. and Mrs. Birman must have felt selected. They must have felt they were still in anti-Semitic Argentina, from where they left in 1985.

Next, we read that the pilot shows up, says nothing, but moments later the Birmans are escorted off the plane.

“The humiliation,” says Mrs. Birman.

They’ve taken legal action against the airline. We await its side of the story.

But how’s this for apathy? From Mrs. Birman, we hear, “Nobody defended us.”

So it appears that of the fellow passengers, no one came through in the clutch. No one stood up to declare, “This isn’t right.”

What’s happening to us?

Too bad, we now say under such circumstances, of persons who need our help. Tough luck. None of my business.

People on the same plane become neighbors. They become a community. A community sticks together. Neighbors support one another.

In America, quite so… once upon a time.

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal,” the authoritative newsroom epic, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” followed by his coming-of-age classics, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” and, the Holocaust-to-Montreal memoir, “Escape from Mount Moriah.” For that and his 1960s epic “The Days of the Bitter End,” contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com