UPC Urges Money – Not Chickens – for Kapparot Ceremonies

MACHIPONGO - United Poultry Concerns (UPC) is urging rabbis and other members of the Jewish community who perform the kapparot ceremony between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to use money instead of chickens. This year kapparot is scheduled for the week between Monday, September 17 and Friday, September 21.
calendar icon 12 September 2007
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A kapparot ceremony

On August 16, 2007, UPC sent a letter to the Rabbinical Council of America (http://www.upc-online.org/kaparos/81607letter.html) asking the Council to advocate the use of money instead of chickens in keeping with the many Jewish teachings that encourage compassion and sensitivity during the Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur period. Kapparot is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud and many Modern Orthodox Jews swing money over their heads. But an article in The Yeshiva World on August 7 said that the number of chickens being used in kapparot ceremonies is “ever-increasing.”

Kapparot or kaparos, meaning atonements, is performed mainly by members of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish Community. The practitioner swings a chicken over his or her head in a symbolic gesture of substituting the bird for the human and filling the bird with the practitioner’s sins. The chickens are then slaughtered and may or may not be given to the poor.

The chickens are treated badly in the days leading up to, during, and after kapparot. In New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, kapparot chickens are crammed in crates in their own excrement without food, water or shelter for the six days before the “shlug kaparos” (“chicken swinging”). Hundred of abandoned chickens were confiscated by animal protection groups in New York City in 2005 and 2006 when the ritual was over. Eyewitness accounts and videotapes show live chickens being stuffed with partially cut necks into garbage bags and other gross cruelties performed in front of children.

Rabbis in New York City who met to discuss kapparot on August 6 expressed concern that kapparot chickens could spread diseases to children and others. UPC urges that equal attention should be given to exposing children and others to the desensitizing and totally unnecessary mistreatment of these birds in a ceremony that does not require live animals to be used at all. Sensitive children are likely to be traumatized by the cruelty they’re forced to witness, and less sensitive children are encouraged to be further hardened into callousness or worse.

Responding to the many complaints about kapparot for over a decade, United Poultry Concerns published a brochure this year entitled “A Wing & A Prayer: The Kapparot Chicken-Swing Ritual.” The brochure is available in print form for distribution and is posted on our Website at http://www.upc-online.org/kaparos/upckapparot.pdf.

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