The Island Now
Two Great Neck temples have been accused of slaughtering chickens in a Yom Kippur ritual that some residents said is inhumane and outdated.
Chabad of Great Neck in Kings Point and the Mashadi Jewish Center in the Village of Great Neck are the two Jewish communities that are believed to be engaging in the slaughtering, conducted as part of an atonement service called Kapparot.
“I certainly am disturbed that in a formerly enlightened community like ours, primitive religious customs that we thought had been discarded have been restored and revived in the 21st century,” Village of Great Neck resident David Zielenziger said in an email.
Efforts to reach Chabad of Great Neck officials were unavailing, and a Mashadi Jewish Center administrator Minoo Hakimiam declined to comment.
Traditonally, Kapparot is performed by waving a chicken or rooster above one’s head while reciting a prayer, which is then sacrificed by chopping off its head, though in recent years followers have been offered the alternative of donating either money or a chicken to charity.
On its website and accompanied by an emoji of a chicken, Chabad of Great Neck has publicized ceremonies to take place on Sept. 21 and 22, prior to the start of Yom Kippur, though it unclear if the temple would sacrifice chickens during the service.
Chabad of Great Neck’s website says that instead of attending Kapparot, congregants may complete an online form, recite prayers at home and make a charitable donation.
A portion of its prayer posted to the website reads: “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This rooster will go to its death (this money will go to charity) while I will enter and proceed to a good, long life, and to peace.”
Zielenziger said he has received weekly newsletters from the Mashadi Jewish Center in the last few years that have also publicized “live Kapparot,” but added he has not received one yet this year.
The possession of live chickens is illegal in both Kings Point and the Village of Great Neck, though it is unclear if a traditional Kapparot service in which roosters are killed would also violate each village’s code.
When asked whether Kings Point would allow animal sacrifice as part of a religious service, Village Clerk Gomie Persuad said all the relevant information was included in the code, but declined to elaborate.
Kings Point’s code declares chickens on a list of “prohibited animals,” for which “the keeping maintaining, or harboring” is considered a “nuisance, unlawful, and prohibited within the village.”
Great Neck Village Clerk Joe Gill said he is not aware of any complaints to the village about Kapparot, but added that code enforcement officers could not investigate potential wrongdoing unless first notified by a resident.
The village’s code, Gill said, does not specify whether animal sacrifice during religious ceremonies is prohibited.
“According to village code, people can’t have chickens,” he said, adding, “The board would have to address it, but at this point, no complaints have been made.”
Traditional Kapparot services in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood — where, according to a New York Daily News report, more than 50,000 chickens are brought each year — were also recently challenged in Manhattan Supreme Court.
On Aug. 25, a group of Brooklyn residents represented by Great Neck attorney Nora Constance Marino sued several rabbis and yeshivas in Crown Heights to stop the Kapparot ritual.
“They’re confronted with this horror every year… the stench, the litter, the filth, the flood, the feces, the feathers,” Marino told the Daily News.
According to the Daily News, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Debra James plans to rule on Sept. 10 whether to allow the practice to continue.
On its website, the Chabad of Great Neck states that it is part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which is a branch of Hasidism. Mashadi Jews trace their roots to the city of Mashad, Iran.