The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos will host a rally on Sunday, September 12, 2010, from 12 noon to 3pm in Brooklyn, New York. Activists will
gather at 792 Eastern Parkway from noon to 1:30 and at President Street & Kingston Avenue from 1:30 to 3pm. Kaporos (“atonements”) is a
custom preceding Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement – in which chickens are ritually sacrificed by many Orthodox Jews. The person
“swings” the chicken, held by the legs or by pinning the bird’s wings backward, around his or her head while chanting about
transferring one’s sins symbolically onto the bird. The chicken is then slaughtered and may or may not be given to the poor. Prior to the
ceremony, the chickens are packed in crates, and birds not used have been found abandoned in their crates when the ceremony was over.
The use of chickens in Kaporos rituals is extremely cruel and is not required by Jewish law. It is not a mitzvah but a custom that originated in the
middle ages. Many argue that swinging and slaughtering chickens as Kaporos violates tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the Jewish mandate not only to
avoid needlessly hurting animals, but to show them compassion. Most Kaporos observers give money to charity, which they express symbolically in the
ritual by swinging coins while reciting a prayer for mercy and peace.
“Chickens suffer terribly during the Kaporos ritual,” says Karen Davis of the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. “They suffer in
being held with their wings pinned painfully and injuriously backward, and in being packed in crates, often for days without food or water leading up
to the ritual. They suffer in being slaughtered and handled as if they were inanimate objects, unworthy of kindness, mercy or respect.” See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpTTk-o88-I.
In a recent communication with the Alliance, Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of the Orthodox Union of Rabbis, stated the OU’s
opposition to using chickens as Kaporos, noting the ritual’s “insensitivity” to the birds and the lack of historical foundation in a
religious observance that focuses on helping the poor through acts of compassion promoted by Judaic teachings. In an email to the Alliance, Rabbi
Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President of The New York Board of Rabbis, and Rabbi Michael Lerner, Chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives
stated: “We do not support the use of chickens as Kaporos.” Even supporters of the practice concede that swinging and slaughtering chickens
is not a substitute for repentance, making the ritual purely gratuitous.
“There is a perfectly acceptable Kaporos practice that not only avoids cruelty, but can help reduce hunger and show compassion,” says the
Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. “Money can be used instead of swinging and sacrificing animals, and funds raised can be given directly to
charities that provide for the more than 13,000 families living at or below the poverty line in New York City throughout the year. People ask mercy
from G-d. The chickens need mercy from us. We ask practitioners to show mercy and use money instead of chickens.”
The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos is an association of groups and individuals who seek to replace chickens in Kaporos ceremonies with money
or other non-animal symbols of atonement. To learn more about the Alliance and its objectives, please go to