Update November 30, 2022: The German airline carrier settled with the group, must pay out a whopping $2.7 million to the victims; more here.
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Jewish groups are demanding answers from Germany’s official airline Lufthansa after more than 100 identifiably Jewish Americans were denied permission to board a flight last week from Frankfurt, Germany, to Budapest, Hungary.
The airline has claimed that the passengers, who had flown into Frankfurt from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, were not properly masked, as required by the airline.
“We confirm that a larger group of passengers could not be carried on Flight #LH1334 from Frankfurt to Budapest because the travelers refused to wear a medical mask on board. By law, Lufthansa is obliged to follow the legal requirements here,” the company tweeted on May 4.
In a May 9 letter to the airlines, Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of the Agudath Israel of America wrote: “We are in receipt of very disturbing accounts of what allegedly transpired on May 4 at the Frankfurt airport when passengers who were visibly Jewish were prevented by Lufthansa personnel from continuing their trip … several people who happened to be Jewish did not comply with a request to honor the airline’s mask mandate.
“We make no excuses for such behavior,” he wrote. “But other Jewish people who were on board that flight and who claimed to have been fully masked throughout were subsequently prevented from boarding a connecting flight to Budapest.”
“For innocent passengers to be penalized for the alleged actions of others who share their ethnicity or religion, is simply unacceptable, indeed abhorrent, here, no less than where the mistreated passengers African, Asian or Scandinavian,” he continued.
Other videos show police with guns in the terminal, standing guard and others speaking with passengers, including one tweeted out by a man named Yitzy Schmidt, who posted on Twitter: “I was on the flight, being guilty by association, of being Jewish. This was a classic case of pure antisemitism from its origination on the flight to its blunt execution at the terminal. Non-Jews from the same flight were allowed on; 150+ Jews that don’t know each other, not.”
The watchdog group StopAntisemitism posted a video of the incident and blasted the airlines on Twitter stating ” ‘Jewish people made the mess, they’re the problem,’ startling footage from a Lufthansa employee explaining why every Jew was removed from the flight over the mess of one person”.
The American Jewish Committee declared the incident “outrageous,” on Twitter, writing: “Banning ALL Jews from a flight because of an alleged mask violation by some Jewish passengers is textbook antisemitism from Lufthansa. While this is infuriating, the airline’s apathetic response is equally shocking.”
Many of the Jews were intending to travel to the town of Bodrogkeresztúr, formerly Kerestir, in Hungary for the observance of the yahrzeit [anniversary of death] of Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner. Known as the Kerestir rebbe, he was a leader of a Chassidic dynasty.