A Wing & A Prayer – The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual
“Kapparot is not consistent with Jewish teachings and law. Repentance and charity can be better accomplished by using money instead of a slaughtered chicken.” – Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren
Kapparot (kaparos), which means “atonements,” is a custom preceding Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement – in which chickens are ritually sacrificed by many Orthodox Hasidic observers. The observer “swings” the chicken, held by the legs or by pinning the bird’s wings backward, around his or her head, while reciting a chant in a gesture of transferring one’s sins of the past year 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, usually for days without food, water or shelter, and birds who were not used in the ritual have been found abandoned, dying in their crates, when the ceremony was over.
Kapparot is not required by the Torah or the Talmud, and the kapparot “chicken swinging” ritual is not practiced by the larger Jewish community. Most Modern Orthodox Jews swing money for charity. However, thousands of chickens are used in New York City alone each year for this purpose. In 2005, for example, Time Out New York reported “hundreds of crates stacked high in an idling 16-wheeler,” as the slaughter filled “Brooklyn streets with blood and feathers” and “children’s screams” could be heard for blocks “mixing with the deafening” cries of the chickens.
This year (2008), Yom Kippur is on October 8. This means that kapparot will be practiced in the first week of October. Please help us help the birds.
What Can I Do?
We’re asking members of the Jewish community who care about animals: please write a letter to your local Jewish newspapers expressing your objection to the use of chickens for kapparot and urging that money be used instead. Ask them to do an article about kapparot that examines the ceremony from the standpoint of Jewish teachings that encourage compassion for animals.
In addition, please ask the Rabbinical Council of America to advocate that kapparot be carried out with money instead of chickens. Respectfully request a reply. Contact:
Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, President
Rabbinical Council of America
305 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Shlomo@rabbis.org
Note: Our brochures, A Wing & A Prayer - The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual, are available for a small donation of $3 for 30 brochures. Please order these and distribute them to your local news media, family, friends, and others you think could be helpful. To view our kapparot brochure online, visit www.upc-online.org/kaparos.
.Thank you for your help.