I think our Brooklyn community has many serious problems that are on display each and every year at this time. They have been ignored for decades, but demand serious action very soon.
The two issues I’d like to address are Kapparos and Tashlich.
Let’s start with Kapparos.
I should start by saying that growing up as a child, my father always did Kapparos with money, but after I got married and built a family, I began doing it with chickens sort of (being honest here) for entertainment for my children. Sounds strange right? What can be more exciting for children? Trip in the car, chickens, a Shochet. Fun. But over the years I got disgusted by the things I saw, and started using money. I won’t go into the Pritzus at some of the Kapparos places in this letter. I’ll let someone else do that job.
I started seeing shrieking girls, chickens with diapers on, children covered in plastic garbage bags, people wearing 8 layers of gloves, laughing, joking, photo-ops. It turned into a big fat joke. A serious Minhag dating back to the Rishonim seemed to have turned into a laughable Minhag with people covering themselves in plastic. The carnival-atmosphere at the Kapparos centers make my stomach churn. (See additional photos below)
But overall, if this is your Minhag, then I respect it. But I think the time has come for our community leaders to take a stand and do something once and for all.
Last night in Boro Park, the animal-rights activists were at it again. Yes I know. They are a bunch of anarchists, and probably the same losers who troll the streets at the Black Lives Matters protests, and would love to join the NFL to publicly kneel during our National Anthem and spit on the Flag. But there are a few points that are of great concern.
How did these protests start?
Well, for years and years, Kapparos places treated the chickens in horrible conditions. Throwing them around like they are some sort of toys, slamming them into the crates, leaving them for days without water or adequate food etc. These are not myths. These are facts that I myself and many others can testify. I can’t count the number of times as a child on Yom Kippur my friends and I would let loose dozens of half dead chickens that some Kapparos center left on a street corner in Flatbush. It was an annual event and kept us busy on a long day, while we played outside Shul. Some years there were dead chickens in crates lying around. Yet no one seemed to care. Year after year the same local residents used the same Kapparos centers despite this horrific Tzar Baalei Chaim.
The protests started slowly, and organization such as Agudath Israel of America issued statements condemning this and begging the Kapparos facilities to take action. Some did, most didn’t.
It’s true that they will protest no matter what. In fact, many of the protesters are openly anti-Semitic. But the fact is, we have brought this upon ourselves.
SOLUTION: Move Kapparos indoors. There is no reason why we need to be swinging chickens around and then slaughtering them outside on public street corners.
Maybe rent a massive warehouse and sell tickets in our Shuls in advance and if you don’t have a ticket, you will not be allowed in the building. I don’t know how this should be done, but something MUST be done.
Kudos to the photos published by YWN yesterday from the Belzer community in Lakewood. That should be a role-model for how chickens should be kept at a Kapparos center – not to mention in record setting heat that the Tri-State Area had yesterday. The chickens were kept in what would be considered a five-star chicken hotel, with plenty of food and water constantly being fed to the chickens. (See photos below)
I want to be clear: I am not against the holy Minhag of Kapparos at all. I just think that the Rabbonim and leading Askanim must make some drastic changes to prevent Tzar Baalei Chaim and massive Chillul Hashem. It should be noted that in the times of the Rama who says to do Kapparos with a chicken, people likely walked into their backyard on Erev Yom Kippur, took a chicken and did Kapparos and moved on in life. Chickens didn’t come delivered 150 crammed into a crate, thousands of crates on a tractor trailer – and left for days without normal food and water.
Let’s talk about Tashlich, shall we?
This writer was stuck in traffic two nights ago for over an hour coming from Staten island to Brooklyn. Know why? Because we just HAVE to do Tashlich on the Belt Parkway. We just NEED to cause tens of thousands of non-Jews to be stuck in rush hour traffic because Yidden decided that the only place to get rid of our Aveiros is on the side of the Belt Parkway. I personally witnessed other drivers furious and yelling anti-Semitic slurs at the Jews for causing them to get home from work an hour late.
Why must we antagonize people? Why can’t Tashlich be done in an area where this would not disrupt the lives of any commuter driving on the highway? In fact there is a simple solution – and this writer even tried to make this happen, but my input was shot down instantly.
I called a wonderful leading Askan in Boro Park, who has been doing good for the community for decades. He is the individual that arranges with the NYPD to have resources at the Tashlich location on the Belt Parkway. But when he was called this past summer – MONTHS before Tashlich – the idea was declined.
The idea was to have Tashlich moved a few miles away to Floyd Bennet Field, which is located on the waterfront. It is a 5-10 minute drive from the current location on the Belt Parkway. There is parking for approximately 1 million vehicles (no joke). Floyd Bennett Field is an old airport. No one would know there are thousands of Yidden doing Tashlich there. It’s such a simple solution. All that needs to happen is a few ads in the newspapers of a location change, the Rebbes would all move their Tashlich outings that they do with hundreds – and in some cases thousands – of their Chassidim to the new location. This would also save NYC a fortune in NYPD overtime – but most of all prevent another few thousand ordinary Americans from becoming instant Anti-Semites.
The idea was declined because of these reasons (direct quotes):
1- The people will never go to another location.
2- There are benches on the Belt Parkway. (He is correct. There are around 10 benches for 10,000 people to share. Easily chairs and benches can be brought to Floyd Bennett Field).
3- I would be happy to ask to have the location moved, but you need to call other community leaders.
These reasons are a joke. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop antagonizing our neighbors, and start doing this quietly. We should be demanding that our self-appointed community activists and leaders and our Rabbonim get together and start making some drastic changes in the way we do things like this.
We are blessed to live in the United States of America where there is freedom of religion. But that comes with a price. What is the price? BEING RESPONSIBLE IN THE PUBLIC EYE!
We have forgotten that we are in Galus. The response of “they also do such things” is a stupid response. “They” are not in Galus. “WE” are.
Wishing you all a Gmar Chasima Tova.
Name withheld upon request.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: This letter was edited slightly to appear better in publication.
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Additional videos from last night in Boro Park: