UPC Urges Compassionate Kapparot Ceremonies

There was certainly a greater atmosphere of awareness regarding the kapparot issue this year,” says UPC activist, David Rosenfeld, who with UPC member, Sam Schloss, distributed our brochures, A Wing & A Prayer - The Kapparot Chicken-Swinging Ritual, throughout Brooklyn and elsewhere in New York City this year and last.

For more than a decade, United Poultry Concerns has worked to get members of the Jewish community who observe the ritual of atonement known as Kapparot (also spelled Kapores) to use money instead of chickens.

Kapparot is a custom preceding Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement which this year fell on October 8. In it, many ultra-Orthodox observers swing chickens over their heads while reciting verses about transferring their sins symbolically onto the bird. The chicken is then usually slaughtered, and may or may not be given to charity, though many birds so used are dehydrated, starving, and visibly injured.

Before the ceremony, the chickens are typically crammed in crates for days without food, water or shelter. In Los Angeles, live birds have been seen with partially cut necks being thrown into garbage bags in front of screaming children. In 2005, Time Out New York reported “hundreds of crates stacked high in an idling 16-wheeler.” The slaughter filled “Brooklyn streets with blood and feathers” amid “deafening” cries of chickens and children.

Photo by: Sam Schloss
Chickens in Water
Chickens abanoned by Kapparot practitioners
in Brooklyn, NY in October 2005

Kapparot is not required by the Torah or the Talmud. Most Modern Orthodox observers swing money for charity. As noted by former Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, “Kapparot is not consistent with Jewish teachings and law. Repentance and charity can be better accomplished with money instead of a slaughtered chicken.”

What Can I Do?
  • Members of the Jewish community who care about animals are encouraged to write letters to their local newspapers expressing their objections to the use of chickens for Kapparot and urging that money be used instead. In addition, please ask the Rabbinical Council of America and other community leaders to advocate that Kapparot be carried out with money instead of chickens. Contact:
    Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, President
    Rabbinical Council of America
    305 Seventh Avenue, 12th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    Phone: 212-807-7888
    Fax: 212-727-8452
    Email: office@rabbis.org, Shlomo@rabbis.org
  • 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 brochures and distribute them to your local news media and to anyone else you think might be helpful. To view the brochure online, go to www.upc-online.org/kaparos. We are grateful to everyone who assisted our compassionate Kapparot campaign this year, and we look forward to your continued involvement on behalf of the chickens in 2009.