Avital van Leeuwen, 12, took a stand against animal cruelty for her bat mitzvah project by protesting in front of a Van Nuys Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) on Sunday, Dec. 23.
Inspired by a video at kentuckyfriedcruelty.com, a site created by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Avital voiced concern about the cruel treatment she witnessed toward chickens by the fast-food chain's suppliers.
In the video narrated by Pamela Anderson, chickens are shown crammed together in overcrowded, feces-filled barns, overfed until some are unable to walk, and dropped into vats of scalding water, among other practices deemed unacceptable by PETA.
Enraged by the slaughtering practices displayed in the video, Avital invited many of her friends and family to participate in the protest against KFC.
"If it was a dog or cat being tortured it would be against the law. But for chickens it's not? They feel the same amount of pain as other animals," she said.
Those accompanying Avital on her bat mitzvah quest included her 10-year-old brother Yeshaia along with a member of her congregation, four of her friends and their parents. The protestors held signs that included such slogans as: "KFC is cruel, you finger lickin' fool," "The colonel tortures chickens. Don't eat here!"
Her father, Rabbi Jason van Leeuwen, said that any bat mitzvah project requires students to perform some kind of tzedakah work.
"It's not just training them to be ritually ready, but teaches them about who needs them in the world," said van Leeuwen, associate rabbi of Congregation Tikvat Jacob in Manhattan Beach, where Avital will have her bat mitzvah on Jan. 19.
The van Leeuwens, who eat a vegetarian diet, have opened their North Hills home to six chickens and one duck, which live in a backyard coop and pond.
"Those chickens will die of natural causes after a full, long life," van Leeuwen said.
-- Celia Soudry, Contributing Writer
Traditional Bar Mitzvah for Most Israelis
Some 90 percent of Israeli boys celebrating their bar mitzvah will have a traditional ceremony, a poll found.
Traditional ceremony in the Ynet-Gesher poll meant the bar mitzvah would read from the Torah and put on tefillin. Seventy-nine percent of secular parents interviewed said they would have the traditional rite, compared to 100 percent of those who identified as religiously observant. Sixty-five percent of respondents overall would hold the ceremony at an Orthodox synagogue and 26 percent at the Western Wall.
When questioned about a bat mitzvah, 33 percent of the respondents said some sort of spiritual context should be included, while 28 percent said they would hold a party in a social hall. Thirty percent said, "there is no need to make a big deal of it."
The poll interviewed 500 Hebrew-speaking, Jewish respondents.
-- Jewish Telegraphic Agency