“Customs come and customs go. I learned this from chickens.”
- Narrator of When the Chickens Went on Strike
One day during Rosh Hashanah – the beginning of the Jewish New Year – a boy overhears the chickens in his village plan a strike. They are sick of being used for Kapores, the custom practiced in his Russian village where live chickens are waved over everyone’s heads to erase their bad deeds. “An end to Kapores!” the chickens chant as they flee the town.
"Fellow fowl! You know why we are here!"
"Freedom for fowl!" they clucked.
"Rights for roosters!" they crowed.
"Strike! Strike!" they squawked.
The speaker flapped for attention. "Every year at this time, the villagers use us for a strange custom. They grab us and twirl us over their heads. They mumble strange words. They think this will take away their bad deeds."
"The dumb clucks!" heckled a speckled hen.
The rooster went on, "They call this custom Kapores!"
"An end to Kapores!" a spring chicken shrieked.
"No more Kapores!" they all chanted.
Later in the story, the boy follows a team of negotiators to reason with the chickens....
The rabbi approached the crowd. “Worthy fowl, why are you on strike?”
“We demand our rights,” said the rooster.
“Rights?” Reb Fishel sneered. “You are chickens!”
There was an angry flutter of wings. “We refuse to be your Kapores!” a chicken shouted.
“Sha, good chickens, sha!” The rabbi’s wife held up her hands.
“What if we compromise? We can hold you more gently. We can pray more quickly.”
“You can use a turnip!” said the rooster.
“But, chickens,” pleaded the rabbi, “we need you for Kapores.”
“Is that so?” A broody hen stepped forward. “Where is it written?”
Good question, I thought. Where is it written?
“What does it matter to you?” replied the rabbi’s wife. “It is a custom of ours from years and years ago.”
“An end to your custom!” the chickens chanted.
Reb Fishel wagged a finger at them. “This is a revolution. You chickens want to turn the whole world upside down!”
“We just want our rights!” a chicken cried out....
Excerpts from When the Chickens Went on Strike, A ROSH HASHANAH TALE by Erica Silverman and illustrated by
Matthew Trueman. This book is adapted from a story by Sholom Aleichem, the great Yiddish author best known for his
tales which are the basis of the internationally acclaimed play Fiddler on the Roof. It is published by Dutton
Children’s Books, a division of Penguin and can also be purchased on the Internet at www.allbookstores.com.
We highly recommend this wonderful book.