A New York rabbi tells Fox News he suspects anti-Semitism after two planes booted a group of Jewish girls, stranding them in Amsterdam on their way home to New York.
“I’m not God, I don’t know people’s motives, but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Yisroel Kahan, a rabbi in Monsey and executive director of the Oizrim Jewish Council, told Fox News on Friday. “I’m highly suspicious of the motives.”
Approximately 55 Jewish girls from New York and New Jersey had traveled to Ukraine on a two-week tour to visit ancient Jewish sites in Europe, Kahan said.
They flew from New York to Amsterdam to Kiev, and were to return by the same route. Yet when the girls tried to board the second flight from Amsterdam to New York, the airline barred 18 of them from boarding. The chaperone remained with them, refusing to leave them behind.
The airline rejected girls with names from A through K. “It seems like it was a selection,” Kahan said.
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During the flight to Amsterdam, flight attendants with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines continually chided the girls, saying “fix your masks,” because the tip of the nose was sticking out, Kahan said. One of the girls recalled a flight attendant telling her, “You can’t eat now, it’s not meal time,” when she took off her mask for a bite to eat.
According to Kahan, KLM attempted to charge the girls 2,000 Euro (roughly $3,000 U.S.) to resolve the issue, with extra charges for baggage.
The chaperone called Kahan and others, who in turn contacted the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to find a solution. The CEO of Delta, Ed Bastian, stepped in after Schumer’s office contacted him. Bastian’s office got the girls a flight to New York at about 4 a.m. Eastern time.
“At 4 in the morning, my phone rings, ‘We’re being deplaned,'” Kahan recalled to Fox News. A woman, completely unrelated to the group, had asked one of the girls to switch seats so that the woman could sit with her son, he said.
The flight attendant had reportedly upbraided the girls for “not obeying the rules.” The girl attempted to return to her original seat, but the attendant ordered the entire group of girls to get off the plane.
The chaperone contacted an attorney, who advised that they should not leave their seats. In response, Delta forced everyone to get off the plane, then refused to let the girls get back on. The whole process delayed the flight, Delta 47, by two hours.
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The mother in question confirmed her story in a video that Kahan posted on Twitter.
A passenger who wished to remain anonymous confirmed Kahan’s story to Fox News.
“We saw a group of girls, very nice and quiet,” he recalled. “We saw a lady ask some of the girls to change [seats] and the girls say, ‘Why not?’ and they change [seats].”
“The flight attendants start to announce the names of the girls, say they have to come down,” the passenger added.
“The girls started to cry. They didn’t feel they did anything wrong here. Why are they so nasty to them?” the passenger said. The girls said they had not slept and had not eaten anything for hours. He recalled saying to the staff, “The girls feel that you hate them because they’re Jewish.”
Both Kahan and the anonymous passenger mentioned a KLM security guard who “jeered” at the girls. Kahan said the guard forced the girls to delete any videos of the encounter that they may have taken.
Delta again offered the girls another flight home, this time at 5 p.m. on Friday. Kahan explained that the plane would get in too late because of Shabbat. The girls and the chaperone went to Belgium, reaching a Jewish community in Antwerp in time for Shabbat. They will fly home on Sunday, Kahan said.
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KLM sent a statement to members of the Jewish community, which Kahan provided to Fox News. The airline accused the Jewish girls of endangering the safety of passengers and crew.
“Safety is KLM’s top priority. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines does not tolerate any form of unruly behavior towards passengers or crew,” Gerrie Brand, press officer at KLM, said in the statement.. “When passengers endanger flight safety and thus the safety of themselves, other passengers, and the crew, we take this very seriously. This also applies to passengers not adhering to COVID-19 measures. These measures are clearly communicated before and during travel to our passengers.”
“On the 20th of July a large group of passengers on flight KL644 from New York JFK to Amsterdam refused to follow crew instructions on board,” Brand added. “Upon arrival in Amsterdam this group was again cautioned and explained the possible consequences of unruly behavior by KLM’s security department. It was also made very clear that this was the last warning.”
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“The same group travelled from Kiev to Amsterdam on the 5th of August and again did not adhere to crew instructions and showed unruly behavior on board,” Brand claimed. “Upon arrival, a group of 21 passengers (1 booking) was therefore offloaded and not allowed to travel on to New York. This group has been rebooked on a Delta flight from Amsterdam to New York today.”
Kahan told Fox News that the girls did not recall any incidents on the flight from New York to Amsterdam. He also suggested that if the problem traced back to the July 20 flight, KLM would have refused to seat the girls in the flight to Amsterdam, rather than booting them from the final flight to New York.
Similarly, the rabbi questioned Delta’s behavior in removing the entire group from the plane on Friday morning.
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“If you punch someone, the cops don’t get to arrest me just because we were traveling together,” he said.
Delta and Schumer’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.