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The Sky is the Limit

14 Oct 2016

We were all taught to obey instructions while flying, but what happens when those instructions infringe on our civil rights? Sunday’s New York Times featured our new and innovatove way to try to tackle this issue and to protect the rights of women in the skies.

We had an idea: To remind women during September and October (when flights to Israel spike because of the holidays) that they do not have to give up their seat simply because a man would like to sit in a gender-segregated row.

Our plan: Our colleagues at the Women for Reform Judaism had the idea of taking out ads in major airports to raise awareness about this issue.  To hang an advertisement next to the El Al gate at Newark Liberty International Airport, telling women that it is against US and Israeli law to require them to change seats because of their gender.

Our ad: Click here and see for yourselves.  It was simple, straight to the point, and we think pretty good.

The Port Authority’s response:  “It is political and religiously offensive.”  In short, the government body in charge of the New York and New Jersey airports rejected the ad.  We proposed changing the text or even the image itself.  No go.  We asked to consult with them to come up with an alternative they would accept.  They would not even speak to us directly.

Our response: We asked a good friend of IRAC and prominent civil rights lawyer, Robert Rubin, for help.  Mr. Rubin told the Port Authority that our ad is a public service announcement protected by the First Amendment.  Robert demanded that the Port Authority accept our money and display our ad.

Over the holidays the Port Authority said they will respond within the month. If they do not relent, we will file a federal lawsuit in the US.  That would be a first for us, but we’re up for the challenge.  

IRAC’s “Rights on Flights” campaign has always been about one thing: a woman’s right to dignity in the skies. Unlike many of our issues, we believe that this is a case where public awareness can make a real difference in a very short amount of time. People often give in to pressure because they do not know that they have a choice. That is the reason we are trying to get these signs in airports in Israel and in any airport with flights to Israel.

If you want help this campaign grow and send a message to all airlines flying in and out of Israel that gender discrimination in the skies will not be tolerated, please click here.

Just as we stamped out gender segregation on Jerusalem’s buses, we will succeed at 30,000 feet.