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January 17, 2017 / 19 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Passenger Ejected From Jet Blue Flight After Harassing Ivanka Trump and Children

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Holiday “cheer” is vastly overrated when it comes to travel and dealing with loony travelers.

A passenger was thrown off a flight Thursday after deciding he could verbally abuse Ivanka Trump while she was seated with her small children in the coach section of a Jet Blue flight out of JFK International Airport during boarding, prior to departure.

According to TMZ, the wife of an “out of control” passenger on the flight tweeted an hour before the plane took off, “Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them.”

That was some understatement.

The man did indeed hunt down the president-elect’s daughter and her family. He found Ivanka and her children already seated and began screaming at the eldest daughter of U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump, “Your father is ruining the country!”

He then continued ranting, “Why is she on our flight!? She should be flying private.”

It apparently didn’t concern this man that he was holding his own child in his arms while screaming at others, according to an unidentified passenger who spoke with TMZ. The eyewitness told the website that Ivanka ignored her attacker and tried to distract her children with some crayons.

Fortunately, she and her husband, Jared Kushner, didn’t have to deal with this abuse on her own: according to the site, a number of her cousins were also in coach.

The attacker, meanwhile, was “escorted” off the flight by JetBlue personnel, screaming that he was being kicked off the “expressing his opinion.”

Hana Levi Julian

Passover Vacation Punishment Case Against Orthodox Employee Continues to Travel Through the Courts

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Susan Abeles’ saga began in 2013 when she took time off to observe the last two days of Passover, just as she had done annually for the past 26 years. During those years, Abeles, an Orthodox Jew, worked for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), mainly as a data specialist. The MWAA is the government-created public body that oversees Reagan National Airport in the District of Columbia and Dulles International Airport in Virginia. In 2013, the MWAA stunned Abeles by suddenly labeling her annual Passover time off as “AWOL” absenteeism. The charge arose not because Abeles failed to notify her supervisors in advance, which she had done multiple times in writing, but because the authority disapproved of how she reminded her supervisor, who was also on leave and could not be reached.

To punish Abeles, the MWAA slapped her with a five-day suspension without pay. Shaken, Abeles saw the action by her employer as a clear infringement of her religious rights prompted solely because she took time for the Jewish holiday. The last two days of the eight-day holiday are considered holy to all observant Jews throughout America, who abstain from work during that time. Due to the suspension, Abeles felt compelled to take involuntary retirement rather than endure what she has termed continued “harassment on account of her religious faith.”

For years, Abeles was told to routinely schedule her religious days off via various ordinary, direct means, including use of the official Outlook calendar utilized by her department. In 2013, the MWAA required an advance verbal approval from Abeles’ immediate supervisor. Even though Abeles, as in prior years, provided her supervisors with a complete list of all the days she would be out for religious holidays in 2013, her immediate supervisor was on leave the last work day prior to the end of Passover and was not available to acknowledge the final submitted request. So Abeles did the next best thing: she sent an email reminder to both her supervisor and her supervisor’s supervisor. The ranking supervisor promptly acknowledged the reminder with a reply email stating, “Thanks.” Despite these efforts, Abeles was still punished.

In May 2015, after Abeles left the MWAA, she sued the authority and her two supervisors, Valerie O’Hara and Julia Hodge, in Federal Court. Famed Jewish civil rights attorneys Nathan Lewin and daughter Alyza Lewin took up her cause. The Lewins charged violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Defending the MWAA and its supervisors is Morris Kletzkin of the Washington, DC firm Friedlander Misler, and other attorneys.

The lower court dismissed the case, asserting Abeles had been properly penalized. The Lewins appealed. On December 8, 2016, the case was argued before the Federal Appeals court in Richmond Virginia, Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III presiding. Several dozen local yeshiva students who had heard about the controversy jammed the courtroom to hear the legal case for penalizing Abeles for what she had been doing for more than two decades — taking her annual Passover leave.

Abeles’ legal claim involves a 1973 amendment to the Civil Rights Act that requires private employers to make a “reasonable accommodation” for employees’ religious observances, as well as the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. MWAA has contended that neither the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act provisions nor its Virginia state equivalent apply to it. The authority claims that although its board is appointed by the president of the United States, the governors of Virginia and Maryland, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia, it is not subject to either the federal or Virginia laws protecting religious freedom against infringements upon religious observance.

The Authority’s defense has revolved around the minutiae of workplace process, because Abeles had not followed precise verbal procedures in this instance. For its part, the MWAA openly took the position in prior filings that Abeles, despite her 26 years of loyal service, “was a long-term, albeit mediocre, employee.” By utilizing the years-long procedure of email and official Outlook calendar postings in 2013, and not verbally reminding her direct supervisor and getting oral approval, Abeles was guilty of “insubordination,” the defendants argued. The Authority’s brief even denigrated Abeles’ legal arguments as “most bizarre.”

The oral arguments in Richmond lasted about an hour. After much debate about arcane job procedures, an exasperated Nathan Lewin finally declared:

Your Honor, I’m an Orthodox Jew. When I’ve worked for people, I’ve given them a list of what the Jewish holidays are at the beginning of the year. And they know that means I’m going to be out for those days. This is a phony response by [the company] saying, “We didn’t know why you would be out.” Of course, they knew why she was out. Everybody in the whole company knew that she was a Sabbath observer and for 26 years had been absent on Jewish holidays. She listed all the Jewish holidays at the beginning of the year. And, suddenly, to penalize her even though she has listed them and has notified her supervisors on the day before she was gone — we submit that’s outrageous.

After the hearing, Lewin addressed the assembled yeshiva students in the corridor, reminding them that in the real world, Orthodox Jews are not expected to secure signed notices before they take off for holidays.

The American Jewish Committee, the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have all filed amicus briefs on behalf of Abeles. COLPA argued that if the lower court’s adverse ruling “is adopted, a significant number of Sabbath observers might find it impossible to maintain their jobs and remain faithful to the dictates of their conscience.” Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel of the Becket Fund, quipped, “It takes some chutzpah for the government to punish a Jewish woman for celebrating Passover. It takes even more chutzpah to say that they are the only government agency in DC exempt from our civil rights laws.”

Immediately after the oral arguments in Richmond, attorney Kletzkin was contacted by phone, refused to answer any questions and did not respond to this reporter’s email. Bruce Heppen, MWAA associate general counsel, refused to take a call on the case. Craig Marlow, a staffer in Heppen’s office referred calls to MWAA media relations, which did not reply to a voice mail message. Another media duty officer, Rob Yingling, issued a terse comment stating, “The Airports Authority does not comment on pending litigation.”

Asked how she felt after years of frustration in the case, Abeles stated:

My Jewish faith is an integral part of who I am and that includes observing Passover. I worked at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority for twenty-six years and provided to various supervisors the same advance notice of all Jewish holidays without incident. It is saddening that despite following the same protocol I had each year, I was put on AWOL and suspended for five days which drove me to retire early for simply practicing my faith.

Nathan Lewin said if needed he might appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court. “This is the ultimate plain denial of religious observance by an employer. Abeles gave plenty of notice and she got ambushed by her employer.” He added, “If this case is not illegal, then no such case will be illegal.”

Edwin Black

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part XIII)

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Question: I am very appreciative and, if I might add, flattered that you answer and publish many of my questions. Due to your superior knowledge, I am always confident when I send in a question that I will receive a proper response. I wonder if you could address whether one should say Birkat HaGomel after flying even though flying is statistically safer than driving. Also, do women say HaGomel as well or only men?



Answer: Previously we mentioned that the Shulchan Aruch states that a person can discharge another’s obligation to say HaGomel. In fact, both the Aruch Hashulchan and the Mishnah Berurah argue that it is better for a husband to say HaGomel for his wife than for her to say it herself.

The Debrecener Rav seems to suggest that a woman is relieved of any requirement to recite HaGomel after childbirth because giving birth is “derech ha’olam” – the way of the world as set up by Hashem. Surely we cannot consider this mitzvah a dangerous event.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l (Halichot Shlomo 23:4), writes that the prevailing custom in Jerusalem is that a yoledet says HaGomel when her relatives gather at her house. If she needs to say HaGomel for a different reason, she does not say it nor does her husband say it on her behalf. In his notes he explains that HaGomel is supposed to be said before a minyan and doing so for a woman would be immodest since “kol kvudah bat melech pnima – the honor of a king’s daughter is dwelling within” (Psalms 45:14).

Why, then, does a yoledet say HaGomel? Because the Torah (Leviticus 12) requires a yoledet to bring a sacrifice (if there is a Temple).

The Debrecener Rav (Torat Chayyim, novella to Sanhedrin 94a) writes that ideally a woman should discharge her HaGomel obligation by going to shul and saying Amen to the berachah her husband makes when receiving an aliya since berachah and hoda’ah are essentially the same.

The previous Rishon Le’tzion, Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef zt”l (Responsa Yechaveh Da’at 15) cites numerous authorities (the main one being the Mechaber) who disagree. Yet, he finds a support for the view of the Torat Chayim in the words of Rabbi Chayyim Abulafia (Responsa Nishmat Chayyim, Orach Chayim 2) who argues that if a place has the custom of the husband reciting HaGomel for his wife, we do not nullify its custom since there some authorities who dispute the Mechaber.

Nevertheless, he notes that we follow the rulings of the Mechaber and, thus, the husband’s recital of Birkat HaTorah does not absolve the yoledet of her requirement to say HaGomel. He also notes that the Birkat HaTorah contain no mention of kingship and R. Yochanan (Berachot 40b) maintains that any blessing that does not contain kingship is not considered a blessing. The Barechu of Birkat HaTorah may be attached to the concluding blessing that follows, but it itself contains no mention of kingship and it is the Barechu that would be in place of HaGomel.

Rav Yosef cites the view of Rabbi Avraham Palagi (Responsa Vaya’an Avraham 17) who opines that the reason women don’t say HaGomel is because they are not ritually clean. He quickly dismisses this view, though, since women recite blessings all the time in their impure state and words of Torah are not subject to tum’ah.

Rabbi Yosef also dismisses the view found in Responsa Mateh Levi (vol 2:8) that since women are commanded to bring forth children, we should not consider childbirth so dangerous as to require the recital of HaGomel. In fact, the Mishnah (Shabbos 31b) states explicitly, “For three sins women die in childbirth….” We thus see that childbirth is inherently dangerous.

Rav Yosef believes women should come to the synagogue and recite the blessing from the women’s section.

His son, the current Rishon Le’tzion, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef (Yalkut Yosef to Orach Chayyim 219:7), notes that a man can discharge his wife’s obligation if they both went through the same dangerous event together (e.g., traveled together overseas).

In general, if a woman needs to say HaGomel for any other reason besides childbirth, it would seem that she would follow the same procedure that men do and say HaGomel either in the women’s section or before one man. She has an obligation to meet and she should meet it in a manner consistent with the sages’ rules of modesty.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part XII)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Question: I am very appreciative and, if I might add, flattered that you answer and publish many of my questions. Due to your superior knowledge, I am always confident when I send in a question that I will receive a proper response. I wonder if you could address whether one should say Birkat HaGomel after flying even though flying is statistically safer than driving. Also, do women say HaGomel as well or only men?


Summary of our response up to this point: The Talmud (Berachot 54b) states that there are four people who must say HaGomel, with the Rivash and Rav Gershon disputing whether this list is exclusive or not. Rabbi Tuvia Goldstein maintains that modern-day air travel cannot be compared to the types of danger listed in the Gemara, and thus one need not say HaGomel after flying. Rav Moshe Feinstein, however, argues that flying is inherently dangerous since only the airplane separates the passengers from death. If the airplane suddenly stops functioning, the passengers will almost certainly die.

We cited HaRav Yaakov Simcha Cohen who compares HaGomel to Dayan Ha’Emet. Just like we don’t say Amen in response to Dayan Ha’Emet (since we don’t wish to hear more bad news, explains HaRav Henkin), we don’t say Amen to HaGomel. Rather, we say “Mi shegemalcha…” We also noted Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s view that when reciting this blessing a person should not say “kol tuv – every good,” implying that he has received all his benefit. We noted the view of the Ktav Sofer that when reciting the blessing a person should have in mind two things: 1) that Hashem delivered him from danger and 2) that he experienced pain and suffering since suffering in this world is itself a good.

The Shulchan Aruch states that a person can discharge another’s obligation to say HaGomel. In fact, both the Aruch Hashulchan and the Mishnah Berurah argue that it is better for a husband to say HaGomel for his wife than for her to say it herself.

* * * * *

The Gaon Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (Igrot Moshe, vol. 8 Orach Chayim 14), discusses the obligation of women to say HaGomel. He maintains that in theory there should be no difference between men and women regarding saying HaGomel. (He cites the Mechaber, Orach Chayim 219 that we cited earlier and the Magen Avraham sk 1.)

However, our sages instituted that HaGomel should be said before a minyan upon getting an aliyah to the Torah. (The same is true of the berachah of Baruch Shepatrani that a father says upon the bar mitzvah of his son.) Thus, women don’t say HaGomel because we don’t give them aliyos.

(This responsum was the last Rav Feinstein wrote, at least partially. A note advises that part of it was delivered orally.)

He adds that we do not do as the Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 219:3) states – that the woman should say HaGomel before a minyan or before 10 women and one man – since a minyan of 10 women is meaningless. She can just say it before one person, a man or a woman. If she is married, she can say it before her husband.

The Gaon Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debrecener Rav, zt”l (Ba’er Moshe, vol. 8:120) was once asked about the practice of gathering a minyan in the house of a yoledet (a woman who gave birth) for her to say HaGomel.

He answered that presumably this practice started because the woman was too weak to go to shul. He writes, though, that this practice is no longer the prevailing minhag. He also argues that the minyan does not gather so as to allow the woman to go out to the market place. The first time she should go out, he writes, is for a dvar mitzvah, such as going to shul to respond to Barchu or Kedushah or to say “Amen, yehei shmei rabbah…,” thus giving praise to Hashem who helped her successfully give birth in a good hour and in good health.

Rav Stern writes that there is a dispute among later authorities as to whether a woman says HaGomel in the women’s section of shul with the men responding Amen. Therefore, some have the custom to gather a minyan at the woman’s home for Maariv so that she can say HaGomel in an adjacent room. He writes that doing so is not our practice and a woman does not say HaGomel at all.

He explains that at least in the instance of a yoledet there are numerous reasons why she need not say HaGomel. For example, it is the nature of the world that women give birth and therefore it is impossible to say, “…hagomel l’chayavim – …who bestows kindness upon the culpable” for she is fulfilling Hashem’s commandment. Rav Stern writes that “we’ve never heard” of a man saying HaGomel on behalf of his wife. (He cites the Mishnah Berurah who clearly maintains that a husband can say HaGomel on her behalf, but it seems that he dismisses this view, as does Rav Feinstein.)

Rav Stern offers what he considers to be a practical approach that satisfies all views; he advises that it be publicized. The woman should go to shul, he writes, and when her husband is called to the Torah for an aliyah, he should concentrate when he says, “Barechu et Hashem ha’mevorach – Blessed is Hashem, the blessed one,” and have in mind to give thanks to Hashem for his wife giving birth b’sh’ah tova u’mutzlachat. His wife should then respond Amen. He notes that the same should be done when a woman recovers from a serious illness.

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport Braces for 30,000 Travelers to Uman

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Israel Airport Authorities and workers at Ben Gurion International Airport are bracing themselves for the onslaught this week when 160 flights will depart to Uman, in Ukraine.

Some 30,000 travelers are flying to the grave site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on what is for many an annual pilgrimage on Jewish high holy days, arriving at the tomb of the 19th century Chassidic rebbe just before Rosh Hashana, the holiday on which he deemed it most important for his Chassidim to gather with him during his lifetime.

Rebbe Nachman, who lived from 1772 to 1810, was a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov. He combined mystical teachings of Kabbalah with Torah scholarship in his teachings of the thousands of followers who were attracted to his movement, which was not dynastic, and not a traditional Chassidic court.

The concept of God taught by Rebbe Nachman, that one could speak to Him as a “best friend,” that He is someone with whom anyone could connect on the simplest of levels, made the Divine completely accessible, and God easily approachable to those who felt alienated by religion. To this day, the Breslov movement remains vibrant and continues to attract new followers.

Rebbe Nachman visited Israel from 1798 to 1799, spending time in Haifa, Tverya (Tiberias) and Tzefat.

In Israel, travelers to Uman are being asked to arrive at the airport four hours ahead of schedule in order to ease the processing due to the massive crowds that are expected.

Registration processing and passport control will take place both in Terminal 1 and in Terminal 3. Some 1.7 million travelers are expected to pass through the airport during this holiday season — about eight percent more than the number of travelers seen last year, officials said.

Hana Levi Julian

Israel Railways Back on Track

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Israel Railways was back on track Sunday night, with full service fully restored by the end of a very long day for Israeli commuters and IDF soldiers.

Maintenance work that began on Saturday night and continued through the daylight hours on Sunday kept thousands of people off the rails and instead packed into buses and private vehicles.

An estimated 150,000 travelers were affected by the scheduled infrastructure work.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Q & A: HaGomel And Air Travel (Part XI)

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Question: I am very appreciative and, if I might add, flattered that you answer and publish many of my questions. Due to your superior knowledge, I am always confident when I send in a question that I will receive a proper response. I wonder if you could address whether one should say Birkat HaGomel after flying even though flying is statistically safer than driving. Also, do women say HaGomel as well or only men?


There is much discussion among the authorities regarding women reciting HaGomel. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 219:4-5) writes, “If another person [other than the one who was saved] said, ‘Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu melech ha’olam ha’gomel l’chayyavim tovot she’gmalani kol tov’ and the one who was saved responded by saying Amen, the latter has discharged his obligation. Also, if the first person said [in Aramaic], ‘Brich rachmana malka d’olmah d’yahavoch lan…’ and the other responded by saying Amen, the latter has discharged his obligation.”

The Rema (ad loc.) notes: “And this is not a blessing recited in vain, even if he personally had no obligation to recite it, since he only recited it in a manner of praise and thanks for the goodness bestowed upon his fellow which brought him joy [as well].”

The Mechaber continues: “If another said HaGomel for his own personal [deliverance] and had in mind to discharge the obligation of his fellow, and the other listened and he [too] had in mind that his obligation be discharged, it is discharged even if he did not respond by saying Amen. The Rema, citing the Tur, explains that Amen is not necessary in this case since the first person also had an obligation to say HaGomel.

The Mishnah Berurah (ad loc sk 17 sv “al tovat chaveiro”), commenting on the Rema’s words “he only recited it in a manner of praise and thanks for the goodness bestowed upon his fellow which brought him joy,” explains that certainly a person may say HaGomel for his wife because she is like him (“ishto k’gufo – one’s wife is like one’s own body”). That is why, he writes, some men have the custom of saying HaGomel after their wives give birth (and return to their healthy state). By doing so, they discharge their wives obligation to thank Hashem.

The Mishnah Berurah notes that when men say HaGomel for their wives, they should say “…ha’gomel l’chayyavim tovot she’gmaleich kol tov – …for He has bestowed every good upon you.” He notes as well that if the wife isn’t present, her husband should say, “…she’gamal l’ishti kol tov – …for He has bestowed every good to my wife.” The Aruch Hashulchan’s words very much mirror those of the Mishnah Berurah.

The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (in his Piskei HaSiddur, Birkat Ha’Nehenin, at the end of the first volume, 12:9) citing the view of Ma’amar Mordechai, is of a different opinion. He states that if a person is truly happy that his fellow was saved (and a husband naturally is), he does not say a different version of the blessing. Rather, he says the standard “she’gmalani kol tov – for He has bestowed every good to me.”

It is obvious from both the Aruch Hashulchan and Mishnah Berurah that it is preferable for a husband to say HaGomel and for his wife to respond since, as we mentioned at the outset, the blessing should be recited in a synagogue in the presence of 10 men at the reading of the Torah.

Kaf Hachayim (Orach Chayim 219:3) notes: “As such the authorities considered it immodest for a woman to ascend the bimah for the Torah reading and recite the blessing. Rather it is best that they enter the women’s section of the synagogue and say it with the men responding, or at least before one man according to those authorities who maintain that saying HaGomel with less than 10 men present is acceptable.”

(To be continued)

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-hagomel-and-air-travel-part-xi/2016/09/01/

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