With chants of “Shonda,” and “Shame,” a group of around 75 protestors demonstrated on Sept. 8 in front of two sites on Pico Blvd where kaporot ceremonies were taking place.
Kaporot, which means “Atonement,” is a 1,000 year old custom observed by some Orthodox Jews between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that consists of an individual swinging a live chicken over his head three times and a saying a prayer— in effect ritually transferring his sins to the chicken.
Afterward, the chicken is kosher slaughtered and customarily is either prepared and eaten by the kaporot observer, or given to the poor, though an article in The Journal reported that last year nearly 10 tons of kaporot chickens may have been thrown away.
The protest was led by Rabbi Jonathan Klein, co-founder of Faith Action for Animals, an organization that supports the well-being of animals.
To demonstrate an alternative to using chickens, “Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, led the group, many of whom were animals rights activists, in a kaporot ceremony using money,” Klein said.
“People pulled coins out of their pockets and put them into plastic bags and waved them around their heads three times, and read the formula,” Klein added.
The protest, which was monitored by LAPD officers, at times grew loud, and heated with protestors leaning up against the enclosure where the kaporot was taking place and chanting and shouting into it in both English and Farsi. “Genocide is wrong whether against Jews or Against chickens,” read a sign held by one protestor, “Kapporot not in the Torah,” read another.
Other protestors gave water to the chickens kept ready in cages nearby.
“I’m trying to keep kids off drugs, and they are calling me a murderer,” said Rabbi Moshe Nourollah, whose Jewish outreach organization Bait Aaron organized the kaporot ceremony behind Young Israel of Beverly Hills, from whom they rent the space. According to Rabbi Nourollah, the money collected—a fee is asked for each chicken—is used to help fund his organization.
“They were screaming at little kids,” said Meir Nourollah, the rabbi’s son, a schochet who traveled from Israel to ritually slaughter the kaporot chickens for Bait Aaron.
“It’s not surprising that people became so emotional,” Klein said. “They saw the blood spurting out and on the ground,” he said.
At one point during the demonstration, a blue City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation truck stood idling a few blocks from the demonstration.
“I am here for a dead animal pick up at 8701 Pico Blvd.,” the truck’s driver sadi when asked by a Jewish Journal reporter. The address is where the kaparot ceremony was taking place. After an LAPD officer spoke to the driver, the truck pulled away.
After the protestor walked a few blocks east to Ohel Moshe, where kaporot ceremonies also were being held, Klein, in view of the group, and accompanied by the an LAPD officer met with a synagogue official, to see if some agreement could be made concerning the chickens.
“Absolutely no progress was made," he announced after rejoining the group on the sidewalk.
However, later in the day, Nehemia Shoob, a Beit Aaron representative offered as many as three chickens per day to be rescued, if the group would refrain from loud protesting of the kaporot ceremonies.
“It was some small measure of opening,” said Klein, who said he would offer the saved chickens to rescue farms and households equipped to keep chickens.
There was another opening as well.
Around the kaporot site, posted flyers announced that the “Chickens used for Sapporo at Young Israel of Beverly Hills are being donated in (sic) The Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition.”
When reached for confirmation, Ted Landreth, a founder of the Coalition confirmed that chickens for kaporot were coming to the coalition and had been donated the previous year as well.
The day after the protest, when Rabbi Nourollah was asked if the dead kaporot chickens were trashed, he said, “We give all of them away,” and showed a receipt for the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles indicating that several dozen chickens had been donated.
Several other chickens that had been slaughtered and butchered were shown in a barrel with ice.
“There would have been chickens,” said Rabbi Nourollah, “But the protestors drove people away,” he said.
“We will be taking the matter to health officials,” Klein said.