Passengers say Lufthansa threw all visible Jews off NYC-Budapest flight

A group of haredi Jews are demanding an apology from Lufthansa airlines after they were expelled from a flight from New York to Budapest.

The travelers say all of the identifiably haredi Jews were prevented from boarding a connecting flight in Frankfurt, Germany, because a group of passengers had allegedly not complied with the German national carrier’s mask regulations on the first leg of the flight.

In a video taken by a passenger, a Lufthansa supervisor is seen saying that “everyone has to pay for a couple,” adding, “It’s Jews coming from JFK. Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.

The passengers were also banned from purchasing another ticket to Budapest for 24 hours.

The Jewish travelers were on an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Yeshayah Steiner, a wonder-working rabbi who died in 1925 and is buried in a village in northeast Hungary. According to Dan’s Deals, an estimated 135 to 170 Jews were on the flight, 80 percent of whom wore visible Hasidic clothing.

One passenger, Usher Schik, told the New York Jewish Week that he was sitting in the front of the plane. He said he didn’t notice people not wearing their masks, but acknowledged some passengers in the back of the plane might not have been complying.

“If you feel you have to punish individuals who didn’t comply, that’s fine,” Schik said. “But you can’t just punish an entire race just because we all look alike.” Schik said that there were multiple groups on the flight, and most people didn’t know each other. “Most people were flying as individuals,” he said. “Some with family, and I was flying with my brother-in-law.”

According to a statement from Lufthansa, there was a larger group of passengers that “refused to wear the legally mandated mask (medical mask) on board.”

“For legal reasons, we cannot disclose the number of guests involved in the incident,” the statement, obtained by Dan’s Deals, said. “Lufthansa will continue to abide by all legal requirements, including the mask mandate imposed by the German government and those of the countries served. We do so without prejudice and with the wellbeing of all our guests.”

Schik said that when he arrived in Frankfurt from JFK, passengers on the flight were greeted by dozens of police officers waiting at the gate.

“We’re talking about some of them with big rifles,” Schik said. “We were really hurt and bothered by that.”

Schik said he wasn’t allowed to board the Budapest flight because he looked Jewish and dressed in Hasidic garb. “They pulled up my name and then once they saw me, they denied me because I’m Jewish,” he said. “That’s clearly profiling.”

Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America wrote a letter to Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr on Monday that asked for the incident to be researched after hearing “disturbing accounts” about the flight.

“People were being punished simply because they shared ethnicity and religion with the alleged rule violators,” the letter said.

Lufthansa did not respond to the New York Jewish Week’s request for comment.

 

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