NEW YORK – The Transportation Security Administration has honored Agudath Israel of America’s Washington director, Rabbi Abba Cohen, for his “exceptional contribution” to help facilitate smoother airport screening for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The TSA, a division of the US Department of Homeland Security in charge of guarding against the threat of terrorism in the skies, had enlisted Cohen’s help to improve its handling of problems unique to various faiths at airports.
Kimberly Walton, TSA’s assistant administrator for civil rights and liberties, handed Cohen a certificate of recognition for helping to “enhance the traveler experience and ensure the traveling public is treated in a fair and lawful manner by educating the workforce about assisting the Jewish community.”
Agudath Israel of America said Cohen had given advice and educated agency personnel about Jewish beliefs, practices, holiday observances, and ritual items to “avoid mishaps and misunderstandings involving Jewish travelers.”
The partnership focused on ways to avoid explicit x-ray imaging of passengers, curbing unnecessary or intrusive pat-downs, providing private rooms for searches, and issuing notices, web-postings and field briefings during Jewish holiday travel seasons.
Cohen also conducted a webinar about the basics of Jewish concepts and observances, which TSA plans to show several times a year to security personnel nationwide.
Cohen said his organization was “pleased and honored” at the award.
“Years ago, we would regularly receive calls from members of the community who were distraught over unfortunate incidents,” Cohen said.
“Security is of utmost concern to the Jewish community and we have worked diligently to develop ‘reasonable accommodations’ that satisfy both government safety regulations and Jewish religious requirements.”