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KAPPAROT: Jewish Barbaric Ritual Continues Despite Animal Welfare Concerns

By Published February 13, 2019

Kapparot is a customary Jewish attornment ritual practice usually on the eve of Yom Kippur in which a chicken or money is waved over a person’s head and the chicken is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic rules.

A variation of the practice requires a rooster to be donated to charity, the rooster would be swung overhead while still alive. After the Kapparot ritual is concluded, the rooster would be treated as a normal kosher poultry product, slaughtered according to the laws of shechiita. It would then be given to charity for consumption at the pre-Yom Kippur meal. In modern times, a rooster is used for men while a hen for women.

Another variant of the practice of Kapparot, is the use of cash where a bag of money is swung around the head and then given to charity.

On the afternoon before Yum Kippur, a devotee prepares items to be donated to the poor for consumption at the pre-Yom Kippur meal, two bible passages - Psalms 107: 17-20 and Job 33: 23-24 is recited before the bag of cash is then swung over the donor’s head three times while reciting the penitential biblical text with a short prayer three times.

The practice of Kapparot particularly in the United states of America has faced strong opposition particularly from animal rights groups.

In October, 2017, public health and animal rights activists in New York City launched a campaign to compel NYC’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Mary Bassett to enforce seven public health codes violated during Kapparot. From October 2017 to May 2018, animal rights activists disrupted four of her public speaking engagements and staged four protests in the lobby of the NYC Department of Health (DOH). The activists alleged that Commissioner Bassett is turning a blind eye to the health code violations because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who practice the ritual represent a powerful voting bloc.

A toxicology report submitted to the court as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the DOH states that the ritual poses a risk to public health in the neighbourhoods where it takes place.

While Commissioner Bassett has not publicly acknowledged the toxicology report or the activists’ claims about the health code violations, she has issued a public statement asserting that “there remains no evidence that the use of chickens for Kapparot poses a significant risk to human health.

On Yom Kippur eve 2005, a number of caged chickens were abandoned in rainy weather as part of a kapparot operation in Brooklyn, New York; some of these starving and dehydrated chickens were subsequently rescued by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Jacob Kalish, an Orthodox Jewish man from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was charged with animal cruelty for the drowning deaths of 35 of the kapparot chickens. In response to such reports of the mistreatment of chickens, Jewish animal rights organizations have begun to picket public observances of kapparot, particularly in Israel.

In 2017, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to halt the kosher slaughter of chickens in Orange County during an annual Jewish Kapparot ritual.

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