With Yom Kippur less than one week away, Chabad, along with many other Hasidic communities, are preparing for their annual superstitious, voodoo-like ritual called kapparot .
Chabad of Irvine, CA is facing a federal lawsuit to stop the ritual on grounds of animal cruelty.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles on Thursday, alleges illegal business practices in violation of the state’s unfair competition law. United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization based in Machipongo, Virginia, is seeking a temporary restraining order before Yom Kippur next week.
The ritual — known as kaporos — is not exempt from the state’s laws against animal cruelty, the attorneys allege on the suit.
“For more than 20 years, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have mistakenly believed they cannot enforce basic animal cruelty laws against the religious sacrifice of animals,” San Diego-based attorney Bryan W. Pease said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he added. “While states and local government are constitutionally prohibited from specifically targeting religion, laws that apply to everybody apply equally to those motivated by religion.
“The California Legislature knows how to create an exception for religion, as it has done for kosher and halal slaughter. However, there is no exception in the California Penal Code for intentionally killing an animal not for food and disposing of that animal, based on religious belief.”
Messages left with the an attorney for Chabad of Irvine and its spiritual leader, Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum, were not immediately returned.
The lawsuit alleges “routinely in the fall of each year, defendants order and receive at their property truckloads of chickens crammed in tiny crates and charge people a fee of approximately $27 to kill and dispose of each chicken.”
The exemptions from state law include killing for food, hunting and medical research, but not ritual sacrifice, the attorneys allege.
It is Chabad’s custom for pregnant women to slaughter three chickens. One chicken, a hen, is for the mother. Two more are for the unborn child. For the unborn child (who apparently must be full of enough “sin” to require the ritual) a rooster and hen are used to represent the unborn boy or girl.
Chabad hasidim generally consider animals to be raw materials and show no regard for the cruelty to the animals since their belief is that God gave animals to serve humans.
The hasidic response to opposition to the medieval kapparot ritual is best represented in this (now iconic) photograph:
Chabad’s response to the lawsuit will likely be the same, even if not expressed so explicitly. And Chabad’s ignorant attendees are often told that the chickens are given to charity or needy families. The truth is that the chickens are bagged up and thrown in the trash.
Read more about this primitive ritual at:
Jewish Journal: Atonement chickens — swung and tossed
It should also be noted that kapparot is considered a minhag (custom), and not actually required by halacha (Jewish law). Chabad often misrepresents the practice as halacha. Many Jews have historically opposed the practice, further demonstrating the lack of uniformity in the Jewish belief system and the manner in which religion evolves into practices that were never a part of its origin.
See The Minhag of Kapparot by Rabbi Howard Jachter for a history and examination of the kapparot ritual.
Kapparot Cruelty: The Campaign to end chickens as Kapparot in SoCal
Rina Deych anti-kapparot activist: Dead and Dying Chickens Discarded After Kaporos / Kapparot
Bloodshed in Brooklyn – Kaporos (note the Chabad messianist in the ‘yech kippa’ tossing the chickens before their death)
Chickens as Kaporos (how Chabad abuses and disposes of their kapparot chickens before Yom Kippur)