Protesters Try to Stop Kaporos in Crown Heights

Gothamist

A small but determined group of demonstrators gathered at Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue in Crown Heights yesterday to protest the Kaporos ceremonies that take place in Orthodox Jewish communities the week before Yom Kippur.

The ritual requires that the chickens be held by their wings and swung three times in small circles over the heads of family members while a prayer is read aloud.

Kaporos is Hebrew for “atonement.” The sins of the celebrant are symbolically transferred onto the chicken, and after the ceremony, the chicken is slaughtered and either eaten or donated to a food bank. The public rituals usually take place in the two days leading up to Yom Kippur.

Technically, Kaporos doesn’t require chickens. “They could be swinging money or anything,” Karen Davis, the founder of Alliance To End Chickens As Kaporos said. “It makes Judaism look ridiculous.”

One of the biggest points of contention is the swinging of the chickens by their wings, which Rina Deych, one of the organizers of yesterday’s protest, says is “excruciatingly painful. They’re boiler chickens, bred to be too heavy for their wings to support. Many times the wings break and the ligaments rip.”

As for how many chickens are used, Davis estimated around 5,000 in Crown Heights and as many as 50,000 to 60,000 in all of New York City.

All told, there were around 20 protestors in a sectioned off pen, parallel to but also often surrounded totally by, families performing the Kaporos.

Young children engaged most with the protestors, while the teenagers present spent their time taking photos of and with the activists. The children were the most eager to argue and defend their customs and community. Likewise, the activists seemed eager to engage and discuss the custom with them.

Still, the atmosphere was tense, riddled with belligerence and yelling. Moments of classic trolling—blowing feathers onto the protestors, taking pictures, accosting specific families as they were performing the prayer—produced angry responses.

Asked about the antagonism, Deych said, “Unfortunately I can’t control everybody. Sometimes, yes, they do lash out. I don’t because I think it’s counterproductive.” The goal, Deych explained, is “to plant seeds, to raise awareness, [and] ultimately to end the use of chickens. This is a big money-making operation and they don’t want to give it up so quickly, [but] more and more Orthodox rabbis are coming out and speaking out against the use of chickens.”

As the protest approached 8 p.m., however, the number of people on both sides of the fence dwindled.

Tsvi Disatnik, a member of the Orthodox community who occasionally sparred with the protesters told us, “I think America is a free country. And if America is a free country then everybody can do what they want. America respects all the religions.”

63 Comments

  • 1. psych wrote:

    these people are either anti-semite Jew haters, or they are just in need of a purpose and Jews are an easy target. There is so much else they can work on besides the Jewish religion.
    These people come to Jewish gatherings of Kapores. Why don’t they go to the Lobster restaurant chains where they put whole, live lobsters in boiling water….all over the US and all over the world. Theres alot more to pick on if they are being altruistic.
    I really would just tell these pathetic bullies to
    GET A LIFE

    • 2. Milhouse wrote:

      Lobsters don’t feel pain.

      But it doesn’t really matter what motivates them. They’re wrong and we’re right, and that’s all we need to know. Let them wave their signs, while we do what our parents and our rebbes taught us.

    • 4. Huh wrote:

      How on earth do you know that? that a lobster feels no pain? You asked one of them?
      on the same note how could we know chickens do feel pain?

    • 5. Milhouse wrote:

      What if who are wrong? Our parents and our rebbes?! They can’t be wrong, we are obligated to accept what they pass down to us. שאל אביך ויגדך, זקניך ויאמרו לך. They are how we know anything truthful at all.

      We know lobsters can’t feel pain because they haven’t got a central nervous system. They have nothing to feel pain with. We don’t know that chickens feel pain, but they are vertebrates like us, and have the same nervous systems as us, so it makes sense that they feel physical pain in the same way we do.

  • 8. Josh wrote:

    I stand with the protestors. Why spread cruelty and pain in the name of Judaism, violate tzarba l’chaim, when you clearly dont have to? I have never heard an answer to that question, let alone a good one.

    To respond to the comment above me:

    1) You being with name calling and fall into an ad homenim argument fallacy (look that one up) having nothing to do with the argument itself. I’m surprised your comment was posted.

    2) If someone thinks that one Jewish practice can be improved upon, you certainly dont think that makes them an ‘anti-semite jew hater’, do you? Your hateful rhetoric costs you any credibility.

    3) A Lobster Restaraunt is different since that is being done soley to eat the food, and not under religious doctrine, and not in as painful a manner. Further, chickens are far more intelligent than lobsters, and thus suffer more from pain.

    • 9. Milhouse wrote:

      You are clearly not a Lubav, or even a frum Jew. What do you mean you don’t have to? Do you want a kaparah for your sins, or don’t you?

      Open a siddur and you’ll see that the Alter Rebbe writes clearly that the minhag is to shecht “a white rooster, which is called gever“, and that it fulfills the same function as the scapegoat which the Torah tells us to push over a cliff on Yom Kippur as an atonement for our souls. “This chicken will go to death, and I will go to life.” Don’t you want that? Or would you rather chas vesholom…?

      Further, why on earth is killing something for food better than killing it for religious doctrine? Feeding your stomach is better than serving Hashem?! And since when is shechita painful anyway?

    • 10. Nobody wrote:

      1) A hallmark of antisemitism in the contemporary era is to criticize Jews exclusively for behavior tolerated in other groups. Much larger killing and equivalent handling of chickens happens in all kinds of chicken producing places, but they target only the Jews. Then add this: Someone asked one of the protesters yesterday if he was driving down the road and suddenly a deer and a Rabbi appeared before him, and he couldn’t avoid both, which one would he hit? He chose the Rabbi.

      The Sefer HaIkrim says that the reason that meat was permitted to Noach after the flood is because the people decided that since killing an animal and killing a person are both forbidden (before the flood) it was morally equivalent to kill either, and a person is not any more valuable than an animal.

      PETA makes the same argument such as their equating chicken slaughter with the holocaust (calling the former worse because of its larger scale). In honor of that, I proudly participate in “Eat an animal for PETA” day (look it up).

      Until these protesters repudiate their equation of the value of animal life with a human life, they have no moral standing to object to the practices of others.

      2) They don’t care about Jewish practices. They have their own philosophy that has nothing to do with Judaism, and their hateful rhetoric and hypocrisy is what has cost them their credibility.

      3) Boiling alive is much more painful (although it is controversial if they feel pain, the latest research suggests that they do) than being carried and a cut from a smooth sharp knife.

      The animal’s pain is not enhanced by any religious motivation, and the handling and slaughter of the chicken is no different than what is done to prepare it for food, other than some additional carrying. If you want to protest animal cruelty, go to Japan and campaign against live Shashimi.

      Really the pain that bothers you is not the animal’s, rather your own cognitive dissonance.

    • 11. Can you do kapporas with a lobster? wrote:

      If I do kapporas with a lobster, how do I say lobster in Hebrew?

    • 12. YW wrote:

      Do you go after the Haitian community, which does a “religious doctrine” ritual with chickens? (called “santaria”)

    • 13. The Sidur wrote:

      It is the custom on Erev Yom Kippur to ritually slaughter a white rooster during the morning
      “watch” after Selichot,1 for then a thread of divine grace prevails in the world. We slaughter
      it to subdue the supernal severities, and take out its blood to “sweeten” the severities. It is
      called Kapparah (expiation), as was the scapegoat.2 Each member of the household should
      have a Kapparah—a rooster for each male and a hen for each female. A pregnant woman
      should have three fowls: a hen for herself, and a rooster and a hen for the unknown gender
      of the child.

  • 14. I agree wrote:

    I agree with the protesters and do kappores with money for that very reason.

    I don’t disagree with chicken kappores when done correctly. But on this mass scale – where the chickens are maltreated before, during and after kappores, I believe it is better to use money.

    How can it be ok to do a mitzvah (kappores) through an aveira (tzaar baalei chayim)?

    I do not consider the actual holding (when done correctly), swinging (when done correctly) and shechting of the chickens to be tzaar baalei chayim. But the way they are stuffed into crates, left in the heat with nothing to drink (some years entire truckloads have died) and often mishandled is, in my opinion, an aveira.

    These people have a point.

    If we were able to go to the farm, pick out a chicken, hold it respectfully, do our kappores and shecht it in the spot, that would be a mitzvah.

    But when that’s not possible, I strongly consider money to be the better option.

  • 15. Anonymous wrote:

    maybe we shuld use them for capores for crulity to humanity like puting rubashkin in prision iff you have pitty on the wrong thing then your probebly crul onproper torah behavier

    • 16. YMSP wrote:

      Well said. ChaZal said “kol hamerachem al ha’achzarim, bsofo le’achzar al harachmanim”

      That’s exactly the point.

  • 18. Moishe wrote:

    RE: “This is a big money-making operation”

    Translation: The JEWS are all about the money. Where have we heard these arguments before?

    The above comment made by a protest organize to the media tells you every thing you need to know who these people are.

    When these clowns start protesting in front of Planned Parenthood clinics may be we can argue with them.

    • 19. YMSP wrote:

      Only chickens have rights. Children have no rights, and certainly not developing ones.
      “kol hamerachem al ha’achzarim, bsofo le’achzar al harachmanim”

  • 20. gr wrote:

    its erev yom kippur yom hagadol vihakadosh. how about some achdus and send all these mishugoyim packing to have achdus with themselves, they shouldnt be allowed to come here!!

  • 22. 375 b wrote:

    #2, if you yourself knew what you were saying, you would not be taking on that tone of I’m right and you’re wrong. There were points to that first comment. Let up. the idea of this forum is to brainstorm and come up with thoughts, not to bash someone. thats counter-productive

  • 23. mg wrote:

    i did kapores yesterday , as i have for all my life,
    however and have to say i was sickened by it.

    the chickens are NOT being treated properly,
    they are dying in ppls hands

    people have no clue how to hold and treat them.
    Just look at pictures of the rebbe doing kapores, holding ONE chicken with TWO hands.

    i saw ONE person holding THREE chicken –
    they are breaking the wings and legs etc

    i believe in kapores in principle and if the intentions were more about doing it properly then dictating our religion ide agree with them

    i think NCFJE as well as hachnosas orchim have a responsibility to have a safe and proper method of doing this, including posting pictures etc of how to hold the chickens and not have kids doing the handing out etc

    • 24. Milhouse wrote:

      Remember that if the chicken is treife you are not yotzei and must bring another one. So for that reason alone you have to be careful!

  • 25. Charlie. wrote:

    There are so many vegetables being killed everyday… Why don’t they go and protest against that. VEGETABLES FEEL PAIN TOO YOU KNOW!!!

  • 26. Gittel wrote:

    I have a few things to say.
    First pf all i read on line that they equite humans to animals they say that they are equally as important when most sane people know that humans are above animals
    Part of the same idea is the fact that they dont allow for medical testing on animals which through this testing they are able to save millions of lives. Mind me the fact that one of their main leaders is alive today because of animal testing.

    They spread their cause many times through violence for example they will threaten to kill a hunters kids or burn bulidings to get their point across, this isnt the way to go about it.

    Many times to teach their cause they will show a picture of the jews in the holocaust together with that of a picture of a poorly treated animal how in your right mind do you compare the two?!

    These are only some points to show you that their cause isnt all that great. So think twice before you agree with them.

  • 27. jew wrote:

    josh get a life are you chicken ?what do you know about how they feel???? if G_D says to do something . you do it………….

  • 28. Ari Gold wrote:

    “I think America is a free country. And if America is a free country then everybody can do what they want. America respects all the religions.”
    The sins of the celebrant are “symbolically” transferred onto the chicken.

    America is not as free as you think. You can’t just do what you want. America does not respect all religions.

    • 31. Milhouse wrote:

      Hmm, the only religion beginning in I that I can think of is Islam, and you can’t mean that, since America not only respects it but often seems to bend over backwards to accommodate it.

      Indeed, we’re constantly hearing complaints (usually unjustified) about extraordinary accommodations made for Moslems that (the complainers believe, probably incorrectly) would not be made for similarly-situated Xians.

    • 32. Check your sources again Ari wrote:

      America respects all religions. It just does not tolerate Islamic extremists who fly planes into buildings and setup bombs to go off at the end of a marathon.

      America believes (should at least) in humanity and not insanity. We are not killing human beings over some “holy war”

  • 34. chicken lover wrote:

    #8.have you ever heard of the FDA.its a goverment organisation that regulates how a chicken or any animal should be handled.why are they not invovled in petas stupidty.because its all done according to the law.FDA law.there is no issur of putting chickens in a
    crate if they are going to be shechted.
    go learn some goysha dinim.

  • 36. Just a thought wrote:

    I am not a PITA member, just a regular meat eater, lubab boy. i can not ignore the fact i really felt bad for these chickens. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, chicken, fish, anything really. However, tuesday, when asking one of the hecht kids where i kill the chicken he told me they put it back on the truck and kill them thursday night. That bothered me. The thought of these chickens are going to be held in a cage in this heat with no food or water for 3 days did not sit well with me. If you are going to kill it, just do it. I understand they are running a commercial operation, but it is not an excuse. They must find a more suitable way of handling/storing the chickens or just not have the chickens delivered so early in the week. Just a thought

    • 37. Milhouse wrote:

      What makes you think they’re not going to feed or water them for three days? Are you crazy?!

    • 38. Just a thought Just a thought 2 wrote:

      Mr Milhouse,

      If you think they are feeding thousands of chickens for 3 days you are obviously not a practical person.

      They will not do so for 3 reasons. 1 -they do not have the manpower or machinery to do so. 2- It cost $5 dollars a chicken, lets say they make $4 , once they start feeding them what’s left ? 3- they simply don’t give a crap…

    • 39. Milhouse wrote:

      Did you ask them what they do? Or are you just attacking Jews with no basis, just because you assume they’re doing something wrong?

  • 43. A Lubavitcher wrote:

    I am a no questions, full on – ffb, geshe, (great-grandparents p*&^ in Nevel) Oiheli Torahnik, Smicha carrying lubab and I will do Kapparos on MONEY this year.

    When this movement against Kappros started I also instinctively lashed out at the protesters but over the years I have looked into it – and looked into my conscience, and I now believe it is wrong to do Kapparos in the way it is done today in the city and in mass.

    The Torah is eternal and cannot be changed but the exact details of the minhagim and rituals have consistently evolved over time.

    The fact that my great grandparents shlugged on a farm in the shtetil 100 years ago does not mean that I have to abuse chickens on the street of NY today.

    To the protesters i say, keep up the good work, I am not sure of your intentions or motivation but the truth of your message is getting through.

    • 44. Milhouse wrote:

      The siddur says that kaporos is like the שעיר המשתלח; do you think they could throw a bag of money over the cliff and get the same kaporoh?! It has to be a life for a life!

      If this sounds atavistic, so be it. Atavus means a remote ancestor; at this season we make a big deal of relying on זכות אבות, so atavism is the order of the day!

    • 45. YMSP wrote:

      May your zechus ovos, and your elteren who were moser nefesh for minhagei yisroel, cause you to do tshuva. Please don’t fool yourself. You’re not being smart. You’re making a new Torah, and rejecting Der Aibershter’s Torah in the process. A gut yor and may you realize the importance of minhogei yisroel, kabolas oyl and the fact the Rebbe, B”H, wasn’t so “enlightened” and the destruction that such an “enlightened” path leads to. Either way, may you only have brochos. But have rachmonus on your neshomo if not for your parents’ sake.

  • 46. WHY? wrote:

    Why do people insist on doing kaparos with live chickens when more and more rabbis are coming out against it and saying it is tzar baalai chaim? I agree with those that say that kaporot is nothing but a “mitzva Its not just the pita people that are protesting it. People obviously don’t do this minhag lshma anymore as is evident from the many people taking pictures with their iphones during kaporot and posing holding chickens. Seriously if this is the spirit in which you come to kaparot than why not just do it on money? And if you tell me the Rebbe did it, when you can do kaparot like the rebbe did it than you can use a live chicken. http://www.vosizneias.com/64020/2010/09/13/jerusalem-leading-rabbi-joins-animal-rights-groups-campaign-against-kaparot/

    • 47. Milhouse wrote:

      Who are these so-called rabbis who come out against it? Nobodies, or controversial figures like Shlomo Aviner. What connection have we got with him and his ilk? אין לנו אלא דברי בן­­­ עמרם

  • 49. stupidity wrote:

    I kept hearing how the chickens are in the crates for a long time and poor them…yes nobody is saying no…but there are certain things we are going to do to listen to Hashem and of course try our best to make it the best possible way to the best of our ability on such a large scale.

    Now the big question i had is, why dont they go protest outside jails? People are put into ‘crates’=jail cells every day, and yes that HURTS human beings…. go and make a change to that too no?
    clearly they just want to bother us and it isn’t nice. mind your own businesses and if you dont, then start with humans and then go to chickens after.

  • 50. gr wrote:

    do they go to williamsburg? why not? isnt that where all these yuppies are from? its a lot closer and i would love to see how they will be looked after there… I dont think they would get a metal gate surrounding them and be treated so nicely as they are in crown heights…If i lived in crown heights i wouldnt stand for this let these people go somewhere else…

  • 51. Change! wrote:

    Funny how its soo important to be Machmir and do Kapores on a chicken but the Aveira of Ztar balei chaim goes out the window.

    I have nothing against doing Kapores with chickens if it were done properly and they felt no pain. Some of the most important laws of Shchita were created so the animals feel no pain. So explain how you can possibly justify hurting chickens (a clear aveira) for the sake of being forgiven for your past aveiras?!! Either figure out a way where you can do Kapores without hurting the chicken, or do it on money! Otherwise your completely defeating the purpose all together.

    Aslo interesting how when someone challenges or questions something that your clearly doing wrong, you call them Anti-semites and mishugoyim… Truth is the same no matter where its coming from.

    • 52. Milhouse wrote:

      “Some of the most important laws of Shchita were created so the animals feel no pain”

      Really? Which ones?

    • 53. nos wrote:

      the animal that went to azazel felt alot of pain. the inyan of kapparos is to remember the azazel dont make halacha out of your feelings the alter rebbe writes the best choice for kapparos is a chicken

  • 54. The Sidur wrote:

    EREV YOM KIPPUR
    KAPPAROT
    It is the custom on Erev Yom Kippur to ritually slaughter a white rooster during the morning
    “watch” after Selichot,1 for then a thread of divine grace prevails in the world. We slaughter
    it to subdue the supernal severities, and take out its blood to “sweeten” the severities. It is
    called Kapparah (expiation), as was the scapegoat.2 Each member of the household should
    have a Kapparah—a rooster for each male and a hen for each female. A pregnant woman
    should have three fowls: a hen for herself, and a rooster and a hen for the unknown gender
    of the child.
    The following two paragraphs (Children through peace) are recited three times. While
    saying each of the words marked * in the second paragraph, turn the chicken around your
    head (for a total of nine rotations).
    éðá Children of man who sit in darkness and the shadow
    of death, bound in misery and chains of iron—He will bring
    them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and will
    sunder their bonds. Foolish sinners, afflicted because of their
    sinful ways and their wrongdoings; their soul loathes all food
    and they reach the gates of death—they cry out to the Lord
    in their distress; He saves them from their afflictions. He
    sends forth His word and heals them; He delivers them from
    their graves. Let them thank the Lord for His kindness, and
    [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man.3 If there be
    for a man [even] one interceding angel out of a thousand
    [accusers], to speak of his uprightness in his behalf, then He
    will be gracious to him and say: Redeem him from going
    down to the grave; I have found expiation [for him].4
    Males continue:
    äæ *This is my exchange,
    *this is my substitute, *this
    is my expiation. This rooster
    shall go to its death and I
    shall proceed to a good, long
    life and peace.
    Females continue:
    úàæ *This is my exchange,
    *this is my substitute, *this
    is my expiation. This hen
    shall go to its death and I
    shall proceed to a good, long
    life and peace.

  • 55. miriam wrote:

    I agree with 13, the way the chickens are handled thats what bothers me and leave them out in the hot sun for hours without cooling them off.

  • 56. poor chickens wrote:

    obviously there might be pain to the chickens and obviously there are so many other things to do but if the rebbe did kaporos on a chicken then obviously its the right thing to do but if u look at pictures of how the rebbe did kaporos u see he held the chicken with two hands NOT by the wings which hurts the chickens. and also i got a chicken and it looked like it was about to die but then i gave water and dried it off from the rain and it started make noise and walked around in its box so next year they should feed the chickens and give them water. its an aveira while doing a mitzva it makes no sense either be nice to the chickens or use money (not lobsters)

  • 57. YMSP wrote:

    Remember kaporos for about 25 years – never once seen a wing rip and the wings are held securely and in a way that the chicken is at peace (as opposed to other ways of holding the birds).
    “More and more ‘Orthodox’ rabbis” are against using chickens as kaporos” – Unfortunately wouldn’t be surprised if YU, which rallies against important minhagei yisroel while promoting types of social activism that destroy Judaism at its core (as does its media wing – The ‘Jewish’ Press), are also against kapores. It’s just a crying shame that people don’t know the truth from political hype. See http://www.getamarriage.com and http://www.mishpattsedek.com for a few small examples of what YU’s “new judaism” leads to. It’s bad enough that some Litvishers sell out and join them in their causes of the day. Chabad, vos mont emes, should have nothing to do with them.

  • 58. yitzchok wrote:

    ki lo sachpotz zevach vetanah oloh lo sirtzteh, zivchai elohim ruach nishborah lev nishbar vnidkeh elokiim lo sivze!

    • 59. Milhouse wrote:

      1. Korbonos are not to Shem Elokim, they’re to Shem Havayah.

      2. Kaporos is not a korban, the siddur says it’s like the so’ir hamishtaleach, which is not a korban.

  • 60. Lea wrote:

    Oh people calm down i know you think is cruel and disheartening but what do you think they do in major chicken idustrys the same darn thing! And you still eat the chicken! Calm the hell down

  • 62. to #20 wrote:

    If we could have a calm discussion with them on ways to pack the chickens, feed and give them drinks, if they would volunteer to hold the chickens and swing them for us (when I tried holding it by its body I almost got scratched on my inner wrist.) But no. It’s a deep hatred and they were abusively yelling obscenities at myself and at children. Not trying to really help the chickens just venting hatred at frum yidden.
    ..

  • 63. Elvis Costello wrote:

    Can someone quote me source allowing you to use anything but chickens the alter rebbe says tarnagol or tarnagoles not kesef and definitely not dog (fish) to number to #52 its the only choice stated and to number 42 what have you looked into
    I AM AGAINST TZAR BAAL CHAIM WHEN YOU USE CHICKEN PLEASE BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK THE WING WHICH COULD PUNCTURE THE LUNG MAKING IT TREIF

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