The Terrorizing Tefillin Tale
A Jewish passenger on a South Shore commuter train prompted a bomb scare on Wednesday when the traditional prayer box worn on his forehead was mistaken for an explosive device.
Bob Byrd, chief of the Northwest Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s Transit Police, told the Chesterton Tribune today that the incident began as Train 108 left the East Chicago station en route for Chicago. Several passengers sitting near the man became suspicious after observing what looked to them like a miner’s hat with a box in place of a lamp and wires sticking out of it.
Those passengers alerted a collector, Byrd said, who checked out the passenger.
The collector then alerted the conductor, who made contact with the man. The man advised the conductor that he was praying and then declined to answer any more questions.
Possibly contributing to the confusion, Byrd said, was another passenger, apparently of Middle Eastern descent and wearing a turban, sitting in the next row. “For the people in that car the totality of this was too much for them to handle.”
The conductor—who noted that the wires were really a strip of cloth-like material which wound down the man’s arm and around his hand—was not satisfied with the passenger’s response and contacted the METRA Police, who boarded the train at the 57th Street station in Chicago. There the man advised officers that he is Jewish, lives in New York City, and was conducting his normal morning prayers and wearing traditional religious garb.
“In New York City,” Byrd added, “nobody would have looked twice at the gentleman. Here we appreciate the passengers’ response.”