As in past years, Agudath Israel of America’s Washington Office has worked closely with agencies of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help avoid potential problems for travelers carrying arbaah minim.
Both the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have notified their respective field personnel about the upcoming Sukkos holiday and the increased level of travel by persons of the Jewish faith, many of whom will be carrying arbaah minim. The agencies have also made this information available to the public – the TSA notice here and the CBP notice here.
The notifications, which have been sent out to federal officials at airports and border crossings, emphasize the religious significance of these items and outline the rules and procedures that would help allay possible security and health issues that are of concern to the federal government. Prior to these agency steps, lack of familiarity regarding Sukkos and the arbaah minim had led to numerous incidents each year of inadvertent mishandling and mistreatment — including denial of entry — of these ritual objects.
The TSA Notice makes clear that the arbaah minim carried in airports, through security checkpoints or on aircraft, are not on the “prohibited items list” and provides instructions for travelers needing “special accommodations” in regard to checkpoint screening. The CBP Guidance sets forth detailed information regarding the inspection process for personal sets of arbaah minim brought into the United States from foreign countries at select ports of entry and points out that the agency is “committed to treating all travelers, including travelers who may be observing Sukkot, with respect and dignity at all U.S. ports of entry.”
We are gratified by the ongoing sensitivity of these agencies to the religious concerns of our community,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s vice president for government affairs and Washington director. “They are taking meaningful and appropriate steps to accommodate our religious needs.”
He also thanked his colleague Rabbi Ariel Sadwin for serving as the main Agudah point of contact with those federal agencies related to the annual guidance.
Agudath Israel of America once again produced a one-page handout that travelers can print out – or save to their phones – to familiarize themselves with the rules before traveling.
Please note that your travel plans may be significantly altered due to the current situation with COVID-19. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the health precautions your destination requires before arranging any sort of travel.