Rabbi Ordered to Remove Shoes in Airport Prayer Area

A Chabad rabbi is demanding a public apology from London’s Heathrow airport after being told to remove his shoes inside its multi-faith prayer room. Removing one’s shoes is required before entering a mosque, but Jewish law requires one to wear respectable footwear during prayer.

From The Jewish Chronicle:

Rabbi Shmuli Brown, Chabad rabbi of Liverpool Universities, landed at Heathrow after taking an overnight flight from New York. He went to make his morning prayers inside the airport’s multifaith prayer room before catching his connecting flight to Manchester.

However he was interrupted by “a person in uniform, though I am not sure from what department” who entered the room and asked him to take off his shoes, as is the practice in mosques.

Rabbi Brown said: “I replied that it was a multi-faith room, but he just told me again to take my shoes off. He gave me an uncomfortable feeling and made me feel very unwelcome, so I left the room.”

The rabbi contacted Heathrow airport’s Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Hershi Vogel, who told him that this was not the first time such an incident had happened.

“I want Heathrow to issue a public statement and make it very clear that this is a multi-faith room that caters for all religions, and is not just a mosque,” Rabbi Brown said.

“This was the first time I have used such a prayer room inside an airport, and I won’t be doing so again. I am very much into displaying my Jewish pride, so I won’t be going into a small room and cowering in the corner.”

Heathrow has said it is investigating the incident.

16 Comments

  • 1. Good going!! wrote:

    Yeshar koach! Too bad you couldn’t solve the issue while you were there. We can’t let Moslem demands force others to cower to them.

  • 3. Jim M. wrote:

    Yasher koach, indeed.
    However, I’m not surprised this happened in England.
    They are having big problems with muslims, but STILL they don’t act accordingly.

  • 4. By the Way wrote:

    He should consult with his Rabbi however, I don’t believe he’s allowed to Daven in a place that people use for Avodah Zara!

  • 5. 'Multi faith' room!!!!!!! wrote:

    its called ‘Multi faith’ as you have to have a lot of faith in the following
    1. you wont be kicked out by a ben yishmoel.
    2. you wont be kicked out by a pacifist to benei yishmoel
    3. you wont be attacked as by the PC brigade.
    4. you have to have a LOT of faith that the system will work the way its supposed to.

  • 6. Milhouse wrote:

    See this article about shoes and shuls. Note that Meheiroh Yiboneh Hamikdosh, and we will all have to remove our shoes before entering the Har Habayis.

  • 7. Can someone give insight into the halacha wrote:

    What are the halachic ramifications of entering a multi faith room?
    1) may one enter?
    2)may one daven in such a place?
    3) may one daven next to someone of a different religion while the other is praying?
    4)what is the halacha for men if there are women in the room?
    5) the many many more details that we would all be interested in hearing in the regard.
    I have forever wondered, perhaps someone would like to write up a halachic article on this topic.

    • 8. Milhouse wrote:

      Why should one not enter or daven there? What difference does it make what the person next to you is doing? Why would women in this room be different from women out in the terminal where you would be davening otherwise?

      Generally these rooms are empty most of the time so there’s not much chance of anyone else being there, much less a woman, but if there is then they are praying and you are praying and you do your best to leave each other alone. The main thing is that there are no distractions, nobody will disturb you, and the room is designed to be completely parev.

  • 9. Yaakov Krakow wrote:

    I’m sorry, but I have to state that this is a perfect example of “Teyvel ihm ha Sheretz” . . . . dunking in a mikvah while holding a dead lizard or insect . . . “multi-faith” prayer room by definition is going to include religions that, according to Jewish Law, are classified as idol-worship, hence making it at least inappropriate, at worst halachically forbidden, to pray there. Any rabbi should know this and abide by it, even if for no other reason than “moris ayin.” For a Jewish person to choose to pray in such a room (which is wrong to begin with) and then make a public stink when divine providence deals the person a retaliatory blow in the form of disrespect from the guy who told him to take off his shows . . . is ludicrous. This story is just _wrong_ on so many levels. I pray that G-d should bless all involved with wisdom, even-mindedness, and intellectual honesty so they can snap back into reality on this one. *shake my head*

    • 10. Milhouse wrote:

      Since when is it forbidden to pray in a room where other people pray to their gods? How does that make the room possul? It’s bedavka not dedicated to avoda zara, and kept free of all signs of avoda zara, because that would upset the Moslems who in practise are the ones who mostly use it.

      Xians don’t need to daven at any particular time of day, and if they feel a need to say a quick prayer they just do it wherever they are, so they don’t tend to use these rooms. Moslems have zmanei tefilah, and their davening is very noticeable, so a private place to do it is useful for them. Therefore the rooms tend to be set up for their convenience, with shoe racks, washing facilities, and *no avoda zara*.

    • 12. Pedant wrote:

      What is wrong with you. Show some respect to others here means show some respect to muslims because the no shoes issue is islamic and nothing else. It is a mosque pure and simple and if it weren’t for muslims there would be no prayer room at all. Better to daven in the terminal and leave the goyim their little room of prayer, but to show ‘respect’ to islam you have to be out of your box

    • 13. Milhouse wrote:

      It’s not so simple; if you’re in a place where one is not properly dressed without shoes, then you must wear shoes to daven. See the article I linked above (right now it’s #6, but that may change). The key question here is whether a room where the protocol is the opposite of the rest of the country changes the halacha. I do take off my shoes, because in that place it’s a sign of respect, but there is certainly room for R Brown’s view.

    • 14. ??? wrote:

      What about respect shown to the Rabbi? Oh, I forgot, Jews don’t deserve respect, especially religious ones.

  • 15. Could have sued wrote:

    It’s a shame that Rabbi Brown left and didn’t insist and stand his ground. If the airport official had summoned backup or other security personnel and if they had manhandled him in any negative way, then Rabbi Brown could have been in a position to sue the airport.

    The reward would not only be monetary but it would also serve towards imposing a loud and unambiguous policy against any such further behaviour and not just an apology.

  • 16. Edylin wrote:

    What has this world coming to violence racisim God made all of us equal why do all these issue hurt people?

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