Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Legal Feuds Swirl Over Yom Kippur Chicken-Swinging Rite

(JTA) — Kapparot, the pre-Yom Kippur folk custom of swinging a chicken around one’s head as a way of purging sin, is one of those Jewish practices that doesn’t always, ahem, dovetail with 21st-century mores.

The ritual has often encountered clucks of disapproval, and this High Holiday season is no different. In the United States this year kapparot has been the subject of at least two lawsuits: an anti-kapparot suit filed by animal-rights activists in New York City and a pro-kapparot suit filed by a suburban Detroit Chabad congregation encountering red tape.

The New York suit was a victory for the chicken-swingers, with New York State Supreme Court Justice Debra James ruling last week that there was not enough evidence to prove that kapparot is a public nuisance. The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos filed the suit in July, accusing New York City’s police and health departments of assisting the ritual by blocking off streets and sidewalks, while not enforcing city and state laws that regulate health and animal cruelty issues.

Days after the ruling, an activist behind the failed suit, Rina Deych, irritated a young Hasidic kapparot practitioner enough to get him to “flip her the bird” — though he held firmly onto the chicken.

In suburban Detroit, Congregation Bais Chabad of Farmington Hills — which said its kapparot ritual is its best-attended and “financially, the single most important” event filed a suit against Tom Vilsack, secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, The Detroit News reported Monday.

Because the slaughterhouse normally used was unavailable, and because there are no kosher slaughter facilities in Michigan, the congregation arranged for a halal butcher to slaughter the fowl used in the ritual. (The chickens are supposed to be ritually slaughtered and then donated to the poor.) But according to the complaint, the USDA objected to the arrangement “on the basis of USDA requirements that any kosher slaughter facility be certified and inspected,” a process that would take months.

Claiming the USDA’s actions represent “unconstitutional interference with religious practice,” the congregation went to court Monday seeking an emergency motion for injunctive relief.

With the verdict not yet reported as of Monday evening, and Yom Kippur starting Tuesday evening, it’s unclear just what will become of the Michigan chickens after they are swung.

But, barring the intervention of an animal-rights group, we’re guessing they’ll be someone’s dinner pretty soon.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.