New York City judge upholds Kapparot custom for Yom Kippur

The Kapparot custom is conducted Bnei Brak, Israel. Credit: Gady Munz via Wikimedia Commons.

( A New York City judge upheld the right of Jews to conduct the Kapparot ritual for Yom Kippur despite the opposition of animal rights activists. 

Traditionally, Jews who engage in the practice will wave a chicken over their heads while chanting “this is my substitute, this is my exchange, this is my atonement. This fowl will go to death, and I will be written in the book of life.” The chickens are then killed and their meat is donated to the poor. The ritual embodies Yom Kippur as the day of judgment and repentance.

But the practice is controversial and has been opposed by some Jewish scholars who have argued that it represents cruelty to animals and is too similar to pagan rituals. Some Jews have started donating the monetary value of a chicken instead of the chicken itself to the poor, while others observe the original custom.

According to the New York Post, about 50,000 chickens have already been ordered in the city for the practice this year. The animal rights group "Alliance to End Chickens as Kaparos" took the issue to the Manhattan Supreme Court, but was defeated by Justice Debra James, who ruled Monday that the ritual does not qualify as a “public nuisance” and may continue.

While supporters of the custom lauded the verdict, attorney Nora Constance Marino— who represented the Alliance—said she is “devastated because this is an egregious event with respect to public-health issues, quality-of-life issues and animal-cruelty issues. To be forced to endure opening up your front door annually to a mass animal slaughter is just dumbfounding.”

Posted on September 16, 2015 .