There was a pre-Yom Kippur controversy that received a good deal of press in New York City and elsewhere: the longtime custom of using live chickens for Kaporet. There are many Jews around the world who perform this ceremony, symbolically transferring their yearlong sins and guilt to chickens, swung around peoples' heads, and then the birds are supposed to be slaughtered and donated to charity. However, there has been growing anger at this ceremony and in New York City, especially in a few locations in Brooklyn, there was quite an uproar about this.

There have been growing complaints from Jews and non-Jews who are disgusted by the public, largely unsanitary killing of these birds, the poor conditions in which they are kept cooped up, the mess that results from this that lands on city streets and sidewalks. "Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos" is a growing group that has a website and Facebook presence, and they (and apparently other people) made videotapes of some of this year's kapores ceremonies.

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Last year I drove by a protest rally held by the Alliance, on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, and this year I saw media coverage online of another protest. Videos posted on news websites, of the kapores slaughter and caged birds, showed a very unappealing side of this religious ritual. And what's more, there are people who are making anti-Semitic comments on Facebook, in response to kapores performed with chickens.


The online news site Gothamist has posted a few stories, with videos, about chickens being mistreated, their blood and feces littering the streets where they are killed. And as one Facebook poster wrote "Wow these people are f---ing savages, there is no two ways about it." Another poster commented "It is chilling how these Hassids will torture chickens..." (Although someone with a sense of humor wrote "If this gets any uglier, there might be a coop d'etat." HAHAHA) This is just a small sample.

Now, why do I bring this up after Yom Kippur, since it won't be around again for another year? A few reasons:

1. It is still fresh in peoples' minds, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Perhaps more Jews will use the popular alternative for performing kapores, typically putting cash in a kerchief or cap, swinging that around one's head, then donating that money to tzedakah. This is a cleaner, less abusive method, to say the least.

2. Apparently the graphic brutal qualities of the chicken kapores ceremonies and locations has given more ammunition to anti-Semites and to people who are critical of certain Jewish practices, which in turn can fuel anti-Semitism. And in this day and age, when there is rising anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere, this is alarming.

3. Animal rights activists, environmentalists, and the general public are generally not looking favorably upon this type of kapores. It should be greatly modified, and/or substitutes should be found for this practice.

Personally, I am against using chicken for kapores. I think it is disgusting and cruel to the animals. They are not housed properly. Many of the slaughtered chickens are being dumped in the garbage, and not always in such sanitary ways. In addition, this practice is, bluntly, bad public relations for Jews and especially more observant Jews. I hope this won't be happening as much in Brooklyn next year, and elsewhere too.


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