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JewishJournal.com

September 13, 2013

Two L.A. kaporot ritual sites shut down

http://www.jewishjournal.com/los_angeles/article/two_l.a._kaporot_ritual_sites_shut_down

Niloo Khodadadeh protests the Kaporot ritual ceremonies, shown here after the ritual was shut down at the Bait Aaron synagogue in Los Angeles by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Photo by Edmon J. Rodman

Niloo Khodadadeh protests the Kaporot ritual ceremonies, shown here after the ritual was shut down at the Bait Aaron synagogue in Los Angeles by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Photo by Edmon J. Rodman

Just hours before Kol Nidre, more than 100 chickens intended to be used for kaporot ceremonies won a reprieve. Kaporot, which means “Atonement,” is a 1,000-year-old custom observed by some Orthodox Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which an individual swings a live chicken over his head three times and says a prayer— as a ritual transference of sins to the chicken.

According to Steve Lyle of the Public affairs office of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, inspector Rhett Dunn of the department issued a notice of violation to two sites on Pico Boulevard, at Ohel Moshe and at Bait Aaron. This means “the practice must cease,” Dunn said. “We determined it was an unlicensed slaughter plant,” Lyle said by phone from Sacremento.

Lyle said the notice of the ritual practice taking place came to the department from the Los Angeles County Health Department.

“We respect the right of religious practice of all religions in California,’ said Lyle, who added that up until the day of the inspection he “was not aware of this activity."

[Related: Thousands of kaporot chickens die in New York heat]

After the ritual, the chicken is kosher slaughtered and meant to be given to the poor, though the Jewish Journal has uncovered evidence that last year almost 10 tons of dead chickens may have been tossed away.

As reported earlier, at the location operated by Bait Aaron visited by a Jewish Journal reporter, dead chickens were being butchered inside a covered area off of an alley.

“Our office works towards compliance, and going forward we welcome discussions on the practice,” Lyle said.

After the closure, several cages of live chickens remained in the alley behind the Bait Aaron, which was closed down and cleaned up—as was Ohel Moshe. A woman from West Los Angeles drove down the alley looking for the ceremony, and was upset that it had been closed.

Niloo Khodadadeh, a protestor, stood with her arms spread holding onto the cages, “Have mercy,” she said.

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