Kaporos services in parts of Borough Park were negatively affected Thursday after thousands of chickens awaiting slaughter suffocated in their cages due to the intense heat.
“We lost about 2,000 chickens because of the heat,” said a man who works in Skvere Mosdos, a Borough Park shul.
“It’s a big loss,” added the man who declined to give his name. Another person at the 45th St. establishment estimated the death toll at 800.
The hot and muggy day caused a calamity for other Kapparot operations.
“Due to weather condition, a lot of chickens died,” according to an email sent by another yeshiva to its members. “Sorry 4 the inconvenient (sic).”
The yeshiva, Machzikai Hadas on 43rd St., charges $8.50 per chicken. It also posted a flyer advising the public about lack of poultry, but employees denied that anything was amiss.
“No matter what faith you follow, we all believe in God,” insisted employee Shia Porges, 31. “And that’s why the chickens did not come to any harm because God takes care of everything in His own way.”
A colleague, Chaim Singer,32, claimed that water and shade were provided for the ritual roosters, adding, “We make sure they’re comfortable and well fed.”
Ultra-orthodox Jews use the chickens in a custom observed before Yom Kippur in which they’re swung above the head three times in a symbolic transference of one’s sins. They’re then slaughtered and donated to the poor for a pre-fast meal.
Chickens are kept in stacked crates on the sidewalks throughout Hasidic neighborhoods, sometimes for hours or even days before the Day of Atonement, which begins Friday evening this year.
Critics of the practice have long called it illegal animal cruelty that’s not mandated in the Torah or Talmud. This week, they were crying foul even louder.
“I am horrified, I am upset, but I am not surprised,” said Rina Deych, 57, a member of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, which advocates the use of coins instead of chickens.
Karen Davis, president of their umbrella organization, United Poultry Concerns, said that over dozen birds are typically crammed together, often injured, weak and susceptible to harm in harsh weather conditions.
In a small way, she said, succumbing to the heat was a blessing.
“Their misery is so totally compounded that the best thing to happen to them under the circumstances is to die,” said Davis. “They didn’t have to suffer the further pain and indignity” of Kapparot.