Thursday, January 10, 2019

She Was Used to It?!

Image of a Spirit Aircraft taken from YWN
To say I am outraged by this incident is an understatement.  If what happened on a Spirit Airlines flight happened the way YWN described it – it is an appalling incidence of antisemitism. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. The kind of antisemitism that I thought could never happen on a mainstream airline. Even if the people that did it were secretly antisemitic I would have thought it would never translate into as overt act like this. Here is what happened.

An Orthodox Jewish family from the Chasidic enclave of Boro Park consisting of a husband, wife, and  3 daughters (one of which was a 2 year old) were given permission at the gate to bring their stroller aboard their flight since it was designed to convert to an infant seat. Once on board they did exactly that. A flight attendant then approached them and told them that this type of item was not allowed on board and took it away from them – even though they explained that they had been given permission at the gate. The family acquiesced and there apparently was no conflict.

During the flight, the husband joined his wife and 3 daughters in the three seat section as his wife placed the 2 year old in her lap. A flight attendant approached them again and said it was against regulations to have 5 people sitting in 3 seats. The husband immediately returned to his seat. So far - so good. But what happened next inexcusable: 
At the flight’s end an announcement was made for all passengers to remain seated as two police officers and two managers from the airlines came on board to escort Chani, Yisroel and their three daughters off the plane as though they were criminals. They asked the police what crime had been committed and received no response other than from the airline manager who claimed they weren’t wearing seatbelts.
Adding insult to grievous injury, the family was informed by the airline’s managers that they are no longer welcome on any Spirit Airlines flights in the future and that their return flight would not be honored; ‘find another flight home’ they were told, leaving the parents stunned and the young girls crying inconsolably.
An eyewitness on the same flight was also shocked by the way this family was treated and came forward stating he overheard the steward who was involved in the confrontation complaining to the other stewardesses about “those retarded Jews.” 
I am shocked as well. This is not what I have been used to at all on any flight I have ever taken on any airline. (Although admittedly I have never flown Spirit.) On every single flight I have been on I have been treated no differently than any other passenger. Even though I was wearing my Kipa making it obvious that I was not only Jewish but Orthodox. 

There has been nothing but kindness towards me and my wife on the part of every flight attendant. Who were eager to accommodate our every request. Which we rarely made. It was almost as though they were more eager to accommodate us than we were to be accommodated. Every single encounter I have ever had with any member of a cabin crew has always been nothing but the most pleasant experience.

I can only surmise that the people that work as flight attendants tend to have very positive personalities and love working with people. I assume that airlines look for these characteristics when they hire people and train them to be even nicer than they naturally are.

Which makes this story even more shocking. Based on how this story was reported how could there have been that kind of reaction to these people? It is inconceivable to me that there could be that kind of antisemitism permeating any staff member or management. And yet the events as described are clearly antisemitic from flight attendant to management!

And even if there any such employee was privately antisemitic their training should surely prevent it showing its ugly face.  And yet it happened. And antisemitism was clearly at the bottom of this since this family was referred to as ‘those retarded Jews’!

I can’t explain it and condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

This incident reminded me of an incident I experienced. One I have mentioned in the past. Only in that case the fault was clearly on the part of the passengers. Long story short - a large and apparently wealthy Chasidic looking family boarded the flight after my wife and I had been seated. They immediately started making numerous requests (almost demands!) upon a busy  flight attendant while others were still boarding. She was treated like a personal servant and they acted like they owned the airplane! I was so embarrassed by that behavior that when she passed me by, I apologized for it. I wanted to make clear that this was not typical Jewish behavior.

She thanked me and said that no apology was necessary. She was used to it and knew that not all Jewish people behaved this way. I remember thinking what a Chilul HaShem these people were making. Which they were probably oblivious to. Not all flight attendants react the way the one on my story did. Thankfully this one did. Some react badly - and for those that might have an antisemitic background it might just raise its ugly head in them.  

Her words made me wonder just how many times this happens. The fact that she said she’s used to it made me think it happens a lot. And that may just be why that disgusting antisemitic canard came rolling of the lips of that flight attendant. If they have experienced the kind of behavior I saw on my flight  - they probably judged this young innocent family by what they experienced in others that looked like them. That does not make them any less antisemitic. But I think it does make for an important lesson for us.

Which is to never behave like that Chasidic family did. Because at the end of the day it is a Chilul  HasShem that will have repercussions for others. Or worse – validate the antisemitism in the minds of people that have that prejudice. We should be doing the opposite and making sure that that kind of vestigial antisemitism is eradicated  - by doing the opposite of what that Chasidic family did and making a Kidush HaShem wherever we can.

Another version of the YWN story can be read at the New York Post