Whereas some Orthodox Jewish men, on their own or with the assistance of airplane personnel, ask women to move from their pre-assigned seats so that these men can comply with their view that Jewish law discourages or prohibits them from sitting next to women; and,
Whereas some women (including Torah observant Jews) who are asked to move for this reason from seats they have paid for and chosen, consider such a request inherently offensive and resent having to determine how to respond to it as well to the social pressure it creates upon them to accommodate such a request; and,
Whereas many members of the Jewish and non-Jewish flying public reject the propriety of such requests, considering them implicitly derogatory towards women; and,
Whereas accommodating such requests and disputes resulting from such requests have caused flight delays, inconveniencing large numbers of passengers and others; and,
Whereas one participating in a public accommodation should take into account, to the extent possible, the social norms which prevail there
Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America
Notes that Jewish law restricts Jews from most forms of physical contact with members of the opposite sex who are not closely related.
Declares that the proper norm, when in an airplane, is to comply with the ruling of leading decisors of Jewish law (including R. Moshe Feinstein; Iggerot Moshe, Even Ha’ezer 2:14) that Jews are permitted to sit next to a member of the opposite sex who is not a relative even when this unintentionally causes physical contact between them. Accordingly,
1. One seeking to sit only next to members of one’s own sex should, prior to boarding, arrange for such seating among those in one’s travel party, purchase extra seats next to one’s own seat, or the like – just as anyone seeking other special seating accommodations on an airplane should do.
2. One should avoid asking a person seated in an adjacent seat in a public venue to move because that person is a member of the opposite sex.
3. If one is nonetheless asked to move for this reason, one may politely and firmly refuse, thereby reinforcing the proper behavioral norm between the sexes in such venues. One may also assent to such a request if it is made unobtrusively and courteously, according to one’s best judgment of the immediate situation.