End Chickens as Kaporos Campaign Wins Major Media Attention

Pulitzer-Prizewinning Photojournalist Carol Guzy Tells the Story of the Chickens’ Suffering and UPC’s Protest in The Washington Post.

“A photograph can be a powerful witness and an eloquent voice for those who have none.”
Carol Guzy in a personal essay about her work. PHO-10Oct07-258058 (48K)
Photo: Carol Guzy
Ilata Roytblat, 2, blows a kiss to a chicken before her mother takes it away for the Kaporos rite. Some children pat the birds' heads, saying, “Bye-bye chicken,” before the animals are handed over for slaughter.

In June 2010, United Poultry Concerns and a group of dedicated New York City activists formed the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos (AECK). Our purpose is to promote the use of money or other non-animal symbols of atonement instead of the cruel and unnecessary use of chickens in Kaporos (“atonement”) rituals preceding Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

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Photo: Carol Guzy

Kaporos “chicken-swinging” is a custom dating to the Middle Ages in which some Orthodox Jewish communities around the world, including New York and Los Angeles, hold neighborhood rituals in which practitioners “swing” chickens, held by the legs or by pinning the bird’s wings painfully backward, around their heads while chanting about transferring their sins and punishment symbolically onto the bird. This is followed by slaughtering the chickens who typically have been packed and stacked in crates for days awaiting the ritual without food, water or shelter. The resulting carnage is claimed by practitioners to be “given to the poor.”

The use of chickens in Kaporos rituals is not required by Jewish law. Most Kaporos observers give money to charity, which they express symbolically by swinging coins while reciting a prayer for mercy and peace. In a communication with the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos this year, Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of the Orthodox Union of Rabbis, stated the Orthodox Union’s opposition to using chickens in Kaporos rituals, noting the ritual’s “insensitivity” to the birds and the lack of historical foundation in a religious observance that focuses on helping the poor through acts of compassion promoted by Judaic teachings.

The pictures shown here have been selected from Pulitzer Prizewinner Carol Guzy’s photo gallery coverage, which appeared in the online edition of The Washington Post on October 9, “An ancient tradition draws protests,” and from “Anti Kapores Demonstrators,” the photo story that appeared in Crown Heights News about our Rally to End Chickens as Kaporos on September 12, in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York. To view all the photos, videos, articles, press releases and more, including coverage by The Washington Post, Religious News Service, The Jewish Star, Brooklyn Courier Life, NYC’s Channel 12, and AECK founding member Rina Deych’s video, “Blood in the street after Kaporos 2010,” go to www.EndChickensAsKaporos.com.

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Photo: Carol Guzy

From Crown Heights News photos of the Rally Sept. 12, 2010 12 (52K)
UPC president Karen Davis is interviewed by NYC’s Channel 12 as protester Dawn Ladd holds up “What Wings are For.”

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NYC’s “Veggie Voices,” Carol Moon, Joy Askew & Julian Deych, sing songs of mercy and compassion for the chickens.

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Right: Protester Bob Kalechofsky disagrees with Crown Heights Kaporos defender.

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Brooklyn resident & AECK founder David Rosenfeld

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UPC staff members Liqin Cao, Franklin Wade, Karen Davis & Genesis Award winning filmmaker Donny Moss

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Left to right: Protester Ritalyn Forman, AECK founder Sheila Schwartz & AECK founder Rina Deych

From Carol Guzy’s photos of the ritual Sept. 16, 2010 www.endchickensaskaporos.com/101011wpost.html PHO-10Oct07-258054 (42K) PHO-10Oct07-258063 (73K) PHO-10Oct07-258071 (64K) PHO-10Oct07-258073 (32K)