Activists Sue Religious Jews over ‘Kapparot’ Chicken Ritual

Kapparot (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty)
Jack Guez / AFP / Getty

Animal rights activists are suing religious Jews in Irvine to stop the tradition of kapparot, an annual ritual in some Jewish communities in which chickens are waved in the air, slaughtered and donated to the poor as atonement for sin in preparation for Yom Kippur.

The federal lawsuit, filed by David Simon and Bryan Pease on behalf of a group called “United Poultry Concerns,” targets Chabad of Irvine and another rabbi — even though previous suits have failed, in California and elsewhere, to show cruelty.

The website describes the ceremony as follows:

The rite consists of taking a chicken in one’s hand and reciting a prayer. A man takes a rooster; a woman takes a hen; a pregnant woman takes two fowls – a hen and a rooster …

The fowl [or other animal] used for kapparot is taken in the right hand and the appropriate text from the prayer book is recited. The bird is then passed over one’s head three times and the appropriate text is recited.

The word kapparot [like kippur] means “atonement,” and is used to refer to the chickens themselves, but one should not think that kapparot themselves serve as a source of atonement. Rather, they serve as a means to bring a person to the awareness that he might very well be deserving of death because of his sins and he will thereby be motivated to repent and ask G‑d for mercy.

The fowl is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic [Jewish legal] procedure.

It is customary to redeem the kapparot for money, which is then given to the poor; some give the fowls themselves to the poor. Others perform the entire rite only with money, reciting the prescribed verses and giving the money to charity.

Kosher slaughter prevents any suffering to an animal. In the case of chickens, the birds are not beheaded, as in conventional slaughter, but are killed with a single incision to the neck.

According to the Orange County Register, the lawsuit states:

“This sickening spectacle is scheduled to be repeated again beginning on the weekend of Oct. 8, 2016,” Pease wrote in a Sept. 26 filing with the U.S. District Courthouse in Santa Ana. “However, killing chickens is not required for Kapparot to take place, but is simply a preference. Many other entities have stopped killing chickens and instead perform the ceremony by swinging small bags of coins overhead.”

Yom Kippur, the annual Jewish day of atonement, begins in the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 11 and ends after nightfall on Wednesday, Oct. 12. During the day, Jews abstain from food, drink, sex, bathing and wearing leather. Most of the day is spent in prayer, asking for forgiveness for sin, not just individually but for the Jewish community and the world in general.

The kapparot ritual is not required by Jewish law but is a beloved custom among some religious Jews.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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