Rabbi: Don't pray in a minyan on a plane

Flying can pose all sorts of challenges, none more so than for those who are meticulous about saying their prayers at the right time of day.

A Manchester rabbi reportedly told a meeting this week that it is better to pray in your seat rather than risk a disruption by standing in the aisle.

He was unavailable for comment ...because he was flying when the JC tried to contact him.

But a member of his audience said that he had been concerned about the impression made on potential passengers, especially if Jews simply got up and tried to pray in a minyan.

One rabbi who could be reached, Yitzchak Shochet, the chairman of the United Synagogue’s Rabbinical Council, believed it had become more difficult to pray in a group on board.

“The airlines don’t like people congregating in the back of the plane any more,” he said. “People have become more sensitive about it since 9/11.”

But he added that recently: “My son was flying back from New York to London and he wanted to get a minyan for ma’ariv (the evening service). Initially, they were reluctant but he said ‘We’ll be quick’, and they let him go ahead.”

One senior rabbinic figure, Dayan Yitzchak Berger of the Manchester Beth Din, took the view that if you want to hold an on-board minyan, permission is needed, not only from the crew, but also from neighbouring passengers.

“If anyone objects, then you sit and daven in your seat,” he said. “One has got to think not only of oneself and one’s religious observances, but one has got to think of others.”

A few weeks ago, Dayan Berger was waiting for a flight from Tel Aviv to the UK when a man wanted a minyan to say kaddish. The problem was that passengers to London would still have time for the morning service on arrival, but the requisite hour would have passed for those going on to Manchester.

The dayan’s solution was an abbreviated service at the departure gate.

EasyJet, which recently started flying to Israel, said that it would permit a

minyan after the cabin crew’s in-flight service, “although this has not happened on our flights yet”, a spokeswoman said.

Last updated: 3:48pm, November 19 2009