In the wake of yesterday’s tefillin-grounded flight, Agudath Israel America—the governing body of non-Hasidic ultra-Orthodoxy—said (in an email) that it has already been working with the Transportation Security Administration and several airlines to spread awareness of tefillin and other Jewish religious practices. However, sensitivity is a two-way street, according to Agudath Israel’s government affairs director: “we have also cautioned members of our own community that they must understand that many citizens may not be familiar with Jewish prayer rituals, and that they should explain the practice to individuals in authority.”
Yesterday’s incident certainly indicated that a little more mutual knowledge could go a long way. In the video below, the Philadelphia Police Department’s chief inspector explained that the whole thing was indeed a misunderstanding—“there was no threat, there never was threat.” The male passenger, he explained, “was wearing what is known as an olfactory.” Er, that’s phylactery! At least the Philly inspector … smelled … no fear: “It is completely harmless,” he said of the tefillin. You know, except for those red marks it sometimes leaves on your forearm, but those go away pretty quickly.
Oh, and want to know more about tefillin? Slate’s got you covered (or wrapped).