When we returned to New York from Florida at the end of last week, it seemed like most of the air and people traffic was moving in the opposite direction.
Last Wednesday night at about 6 p.m. the JFK gates to vacation destinations like parts of Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico, and elsewhere were filling up with kids wearing yarmulkes and their fathers mostly wearing baseball caps. Many of the moms were wearing sheitels or hats. It was winter break, or Yeshiva week—everyone was going to take a breather from the usual routine for anywhere from 5 to 10 days.
My mother-in-law’s doctor, whom I had the opportunity to speak to about a minor health issue every morning last week, told me on Wednesday that the next day he was leaving to Cancun. It turns out that his replacement is not as generous with his time, so I ended up texting him in Mexico, and he was communicating with the covering doctor and then getting back to me.
This year it looks like Yeshiva Week, or what we started to call No Yeshiva Week a few years ago, is being carefully prepared for. It appears that everyone is ready for the mass migration—except, in some instances, the airlines.
One of the challenges of No Yeshiva Week is what to do when your children’s schools don’t coordinate their vacation periods with each other. At least half of our New York-area school population has made it to their intended destinations, with the other half most likely getting into place as this issue of the 5TJT goes to press.
One of the newer objectives of NYW (No Yeshiva Week) is to find a spot on the map that is not overpopulated and where you can properly relax and enjoy your vacation. On the other hand, the reality is that most of us enjoy going to the same places that everyone else goes to; hence, some will be dealing with overwhelming overcrowding.
We will deal with that dynamic in a moment. The first order of business is to get wherever you happen to be going. Air travel has become somewhat challenging over these last several years, especially in the aftermath of how the industry dealt with the pandemic. Airline delays are routine these days, and if you happen to protest excessively at, say, an airport ticket counter, you run the risk of landing on a no-fly list with no way to appeal such a decision.
Taking that new reality into consideration, it is advisable not to travel too late on a Thursday and certainly not on Friday at all. That kind of scheduling will leave too much to chance. On that note, last Thursday evening I received a text from an acquaintance saying that he and his wife and three children were at JFK for a 7:30 p.m. flight to Orlando. He wrote that they began boarding at 8:30 p.m. and that just about the entire Delta flight consisted of Yeshiva-break people.
“At 9:45 p.m. we were still on the runway and the pilot announced that we were number 10 in the line of planes waiting for takeoff,” he wrote in a text. Then he felt the plane turning around and heading in the direction of the terminals. A flight attendant announced that the cockpit crew had been working more hours than allowed by their contracts and that the passengers would have to deplane. They said that once everyone was in the terminal they would receive instructions about another flight to Florida.
Once they were back in the terminal it was about 10:30 p.m. They were told that the flight was canceled, their luggage would remain on the plane, and the same plane would be leaving on Friday morning at 11 a.m. and the passengers should come back to the airport at that time.
Of course, that is a major imposition but not all that bad if you live in Far Rockaway or the Five Towns. But it can’t be that all the passengers live just a 20-minute ride from JFK. Whatever the reality was, the story is that everyone went back to wherever they came from and returned to the airport the next morning.
As you can imagine, the passengers were not too pleased about what was happening. My friend explained that the next day—Friday—they assembled back at the assigned gate only to see that the electronic sign at that gate showed that the flight was bound for Raleigh, North Carolina. He said that most of the folks remained calm because, after all—as we know from experience—getting upset does not change anything.
When some of those assembled asked what the story was they were told their flight was changed to a different gate and that they should take their bags and their families a few gates away for their flight to Orlando. When they made the move, the computer screen at the new desk was dark and there were no personnel at that counter. When some of the passengers went back to the original desk to ask what was happening they were told to tell everyone to come back to the original gate and that the 11:15 flight would leave from there.
Of course, concern was beginning to percolate about Shabbos, which is obviously something unique to this particular group. Is it possible that the staff at Delta or any other airline other than El Al understands these Friday concerns? Well, if you reschedule a Thursday-evening flight for Friday close to noon, chances are you don’t really get it.
Anyway, the Friday flight to Orlando did finally take off pretty much on schedule, the luggage was on that plane, and everyone arrived where they were supposed to be by 3 p.m. An added consideration was that Shabbos in Florida does start almost an hour later than it does in New York at this time of year, a comforting thought for many of the travelers.
So now, as you read these words, the Yeshiva break-ers are spread around the globe, with an inordinate number of people somewhere in the Sunshine State. Actually, there is one segment of the population currently there with another one on the way for next week. Why all the schools cannot arrange to have the same days off is another complicated matter that we can deal with at a different time.
To many Floridians it looks like something akin to an invasion of New Yorkers. In fact, the respected and popular rav of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS) issued a letter last week addressing both Floridians and those visiting the state to be respectful of and sensitive to the lifestyles of the varied groups.
In his letter, Rabbi Goldberg pointed out that he has observed that some Floridians prepare for Yeshiva Week in the same way some prepare for a hurricane. That is, they go to the supermarkets to stock up on bread, water, and other foodstuffs as if a storm is expected.
He also asked visitors—which I interpreted as being New Yorkers—to be sensitive to the ways of life that residents of Florida have grown accustomed to. He pointed out that this could include not honking at the car in front of you the moment the light turns from red to green. He also suggested parking within the white lines as a courtesy to other drivers. I would add to that: don’t get jumpy or agitated when waiting on line at a supermarket.
We can learn a lot from people who live outside of New York. We can learn about kindness, patience, and being courteous. So whether it’s Yeshiva Week or No Yeshiva Week, there’s a great deal to be learned even when out of school. I’m not sure whether or not that includes airports—that’s a decision each individual has to make.
Read more of Larry Gordon’s articles at 5TJT.com. Follow 5 Towns Jewish Times on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates and live videos. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome at 5TJT.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.