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27 September 2010  
Kind Kaporos Article, Blog & Letters to the Editor

“The chicken ritual has come under scrutiny and been criticized in recent years, by both animal-rights activists and Jews concerned about the kashrus quality of the slaughter. . . . An organization has even been formed that is devoted to ending the practice of using chickens for kaporos. The New York-based Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos is a spin-off of United Poultry Concerns.” Read the article:

“Crying foul over kaporos,” by Michael Orbach, The Jewish Star, Sept. 15, 2010.


“Make love, not kapparos,” by Amy Meltzer, Homeshuling, Sept. 15, 2010.

“Today, my entire kindergarten class visited the chicken coop of one member of the class. We met the three beautiful birds. . . .” Read Amy Meltzer’s blog & see the lovely photos:


“Too much made of archaic practice.” Regarding “Sacrifice offers insight,” (A-1, Sept 18) The Record, North, Three Letters, Sept. 26, 2010.

The highest Jewish holy day, and we’re back 25 centuries. Whose idea was this? Front page, above the fold, then more on Page A-6.

The dead chicken dangled over a baby by a proud mom Page A-1. The baseball cap made the photo on Page A-6 priceless. Was prominent coverage of this archaic ritual really necessary?

Quite a few other "religions" and cults sacrifice, too. I do hope they won’t get equal coverage defending their beliefs.

Then the disclaimer: The article goes on to state that most Jews are put off by this practice. So are lots of non-Jews, just for the record.

It’s bad enough to have to read, see and hear about man’s inhumanity to man (and animals) on a daily basis, often in the name of religion. Sacrifice (animal and human) has ancient roots in paganism. It was practiced millennia ago according to Jewish law, year after year as a reminder of our sins.

In today’s world, there are so many more moderate, meaningful ways to engage in and experience the rationale for the ritual — appreciating the fragility of life, feeding the poor or worshiping our creator. Making front-page news of what must be a small sect of Jews who practice this ritual was an unfortunate piece of journalism in times when nerves are so frazzled by antiquated "religious" practices in general.

Joan Altgelt
Franklin Lakes, Sept. 18


Just as there are many religions, there are many different patterns of observance in Jewish life. As the rabbi of a large Conservative Jewish congregation in Fair Lawn, I would like to react to "Sacrifice offers insight" (Page A-1, Sept. 19) about Jewish rituals on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Kaparot, the ritual described in the article, is not part of our practice, nor is it the practice of most Jews. As you pointed out, we consider it inhumane. This year, as in years past, our congregation followed a number of rituals — some old, some new — on Yom Kippur.

We fast for many reasons: to focus on the spiritual as well as to feel sympathy for those whose fasting is not voluntary, the hungry in our community. Therefore, each year we ask members of the congregation to bring a grocery bag of food to the synagogue; we distribute what we collect to the needy. Our lobby was filled with those bags.

This year, we joined in a campaign of the Conservative movement called Magen Tzedek. We support its work to see that the food we eat not only satisfies that ritual requirement of Jewish life, but also its ethical demands. We do not want to eat food from manufacturers who pollute the environment, treat animals inhumanely or exploit their workers.

Before Yom Kippur we also sent our teenagers to the homes of shut-ins, elderly Jews who are unable to come to synagogue. Those teens sounded the shofar, the ram’s horn, for them. I accompanied one such group and listened to the shofar with a man who hid from the Nazis for three years in Amsterdam and who knew Anne Frank’s father. He was recovering from a stroke and could not attend synagogue this year. We find that these paths of concern for those in need help us atone for our sins.

Ronald S. Roth
Fair Lawn, Sept. 19

The writer is rabbi of the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel in Fair Lawn.


Kaparot is not mandated in the Torah or the Talmud. In fact, many great rabbis and sages spoke out against it. Judaism, after the destruction of the Temple, has not endorsed vicarious sacrifice.

Additionally, the very way it is practiced, by holding and swinging the chickens with their wings pinned back, is painful to the birds and often causes fractures, torn ligaments and other injuries. This not only directly violates tsa’ar baalei chaim, the Jewish mandate not to cause harm to animals, but also makes the animal treif (un-kosher), rendering it unsuitable for "donation to the hungry," which practitioners allege takes place.

Because multiple birds have been tightly packed in cages, then crammed into crates, many sustain serious injuries. Almost all have feathers rubbed off, and many have skin ulcerations and wounds. Through the years, I have personally witnessed practitioners throwing dead and dying chickens into dumpsters and garbage bags, stating they were treif and could not be used.

Our organization, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporot, encourages people to use money, instead of chickens, which is permitted.

Most Jews, orthodox, conservative, reform and secular alike, do not practice kaparot with chickens, and some don’t do it at all.

We look forward to a day when we, as a species, can transcend our anthropocentric transfixion and extend our compassion to all sentient creatures. Until that happens, the very least we can do is eliminate the most overt and unnecessary cruelties.

Rina Deych
Brooklyn, Sept. 20

The writer is a member of Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos ( is a project of United Poultry Concerns. It is an association of compassionate groups and individuals who seek to replace the use of chickens in kaporos rituals with non-animal symbols of atonement. Register now to attend our Benefit to End Chickens as Kaporos at the Peter Max Studio Thursday evening, Sept. 30 from 6:30-9pm.

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