TSA to Screeners: Go Gentle on the Matzoh

Sunday, 13 Apr 2014 02:58 PM

By Elliot Jager

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The Transportation Security Administration has advised its 50,000 security officers, inspectors, and staff to be sensitive to religiously observant Jewish travelers during the Passover holiday period, the New York Post reported.

The TSA has come under recurring criticism over the way it conducts airport security screening of passengers. Last week, a deaf and mute woman was allegedly kept off her flight when transportation security officers insisted she state her name while her identification was being checked, the Post reported.

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TSA agents have been accused of sexually inappropriate pat-downs of passengers, and thoughtlessness toward wheelchair-bound travelers.

Religious Jewish passengers have also encountered difficulties including while travelling over the Jewish holidays, according to Rabbi Abba Cohen of Agudath Israel of America, an advocacy group representing ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Lakewood Scoop reported.

In order to avoid unpleasantness this Passover, the TSA issued a notice informing employees that in the days leading up to Passover — which begins on the eve of April 14 and ends in the U.S. at sundown April 22 — some passengers may be traveling with handmade unleavened bread or matzoh.

"Matzoh can be machine or handmade and are typically very thin and fragile, and break easily," the TSA notice said. Matzoh carrying passengers may request a hand inspection at security checkpoints.

It also informed security personnel that religious Jewish passengers always wear hats or other head covering. They may be carrying prayer shawls and phylacteries in their hand luggage. And they might be observed reciting prayers or reading religious texts.

Cohen said he was "profoundly" grateful to TSA for working to reduce some of the anxiety associated with air travel in the post-9/11 era. "We have no doubt that TSA's efforts to educate the public and its personnel on religious issues will go far in avoiding misunderstandings and mishaps."

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