Brooklyn residents had their feathers ruffled last week when they demanded that a Manhattan judge issue a cease and desist order against what they perceive as the “unsanitary” Jewish ritual of slaughtering chickens in the public domain prior to the holiday of Yom Kippur. The annual ritual involves swinging a live chicken above one’s head to absolve sins from the past year and then having a kosher slaughterer kill the bird and give it to charity to help feed the poor.
The group of plaintiffs calling themselves the”Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos” are from the Borough Park and Crown Heights sections of Brooklyn where the practice is widespread. They claim that the shlugging of kaporos results in a public health hazard with “stench, litter, blood, feces and feathers” polluting the streets.
David Jaroslawicz, the attorney representing Orthodox Jews who observe the ritual scrupulously said the protest group has their own agenda and called then a cadre of ‘vegetarians” and vegans” who were stoking the proverbial fires by manufacturing “hysteria” where it does not exist. He took note of the fact that not one single person has ever experiences health related problems from the slaughtered chickens.
The attorney representing the alliance, Nora Marino told the New York Post that, “This is an epidemic waiting to happen – we just had this Legionnaires’ disease breakout in the Bronx where 12 people died.”
According to Marino, the ritual is in violation of 15 different laws that are mandated in city and state health and agriculture regulations. To dramatize their point, Marino’s clients entered the courtroom holding photos of bloodied and dead chickens.
In July, Marino and another lawyer representing the plantiffs said in an affidavit that: "Ten years ago, Kaporos only occurred in several small alleys and a handful of synagogue parking lots. However, every year it has increased in size and scope. Today, Kaporos has become an overwhelming event that has spiraled out of control. .. (into) a carnival like atmosphere of bloody violence. “
They asserted that the ritual was “now motivated by money and profits, and not by religious redemption."
According to a Daily News report, other residents in the neighborhoods where the ritual takes place also added their statements to the affidavit. The report indicated that Julien Deych, 22, says he made the mistake of jogging past a Kaporos slaughter site and came away covered in feathers and dust and tortured by the memory of watching children and adults taunt the terrified birds stacked up in a large tractor trailer truck.
Rabbi Shea Hecht, a spokesman for the Orthodox Jewish group called the lawsuit “an attack on our religious freedom.”
Also speaking out in defense of the practitioners of kaporos was Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind who represents the Boro Park community in the state legislature. He offered a disputation of the Alliance’s description of what transpires during kaporos.
According to the Daily News report, Mr. Hikind said, "I represent this community. I live here, walk around here, have an office in the heart of the community. And I don't know what in God's name they're talking about. They make it sound like there's blood running in the streets. It's just not true.”
Hikind said if some congregations are not careful about sanitation issues, he would "have no problem with police enforcing the laws. But chickens are not being killed on the sidewalks."
Hikind said it's against Jewish law to torture animals or cause them pain and he insisted that also doesn't happen.
Debra James, a Manhattan Supreme Court justice said she’ll rule on September 10th.