To The Board and Leadership of Young Israel of Beverly Hills,
As community members, rabbis and Pico-Robertson residents in the Jewish community of Los Angeles, we are writing today to ask that you not allow any of those involved in previous years’ Kapparot activities or invested in its practice to utilize the facilities of Young Israel of Beverly Hills for the ritual in 2014 or beyond. We ask that you not rent the space or in any way profit from this ritual practice which, as you know, is not universally observed in the Jewish Community.
As you are undoubtedly aware, rabbis for centuries have raised serious concerns regarding Kapparot with chickens due to the potential improper treatment of the birds, not to mention philosophical questions about expiation of sin and the embarrassment that it generates as a face of the Jewish community. Jews at the Pinto (Moroccan) synagogue do not generally perform this ritual, Rabbi Shofet at Nessah Israel encourages his members to use money instead, the prayerbook offers a money alternative, and even the Chief Rabbis (Ashkenazi) in Israel have discouraged its practice. By no means is this a d’oraita observance, yet alone a Mitzvah. Anyone practicing the ritual does so with great risk of breaking Jewish laws surrounding cruelty, waste, and the creation of N’veilah. Rabbinical authorities in our own community are concerned with the proliferation of this practice and the embarrassment it brings to Jews. It has become a Chilul HaShem and a busha in Los Angeles.
Over the years, groups have repeatedly conducted Kapparot at your facility and used the alleyway behind the synagogue as a staging ground in an unlawful and dishonest manner, bringing unwanted and negative attention to the neighborhood and to the Jewish community as a whole. As was widely reported by the Los Angeles Times as well as international media: Chickens were held all week in very cruel circumstances, exposed to the hot sun all day and denied food or water. This cruelty (Tzaar Ba’alei Chayim) is not in keeping with Jewish tradition and beliefs which hold that animals be treated kindly and spared unnecessary physical and psychological pain. Moreover, the creation of thousands of dead chickens conflicts with laws of N’veilah (creating inedible meat) and Bal Tashchit (creation of waste). Those using Young Israel of Beverly Hills lied to the public and the people participating in their Kapparot ceremonies, as captured in ample ways on video and photographs: The slaughtered chickens were not going to charity to feed the homeless as they fraudulently claimed to both neighbors and Jewish participants in the ritual. Instead, the dead bodies were thrown out in plastic bags as trash, just as had been done in 2012 when news sources reported that the City of Los Angeles Department of Sanitation had to dispose of 20,000 pounds of dead Kapparot chickens in the garbage dump. Practitioners of Kapparot used live chickens without any licensing or legally-mandated inspections. The California Department of Food and Agriculture on Friday, September 13, 2013, shut down the Kapparot ritual both at the Ohel Moshe synagogue and the YIBH site, accusing them of violating Los Angeles Municipal Code Section 53.67 which bans animal sacrifices in religious and cult rituals. Those offering the Kapparot ritual at Young Israel of Beverly Hills further demonstrated the dishonesty that pervades their Kapparot operation in using virtually all female chickens despite Jewish tradition holding that roosters be used for men, hens for women. Many neighbors in the community were shocked at the cruelty and also voiced health concerns at the storing of the live chickens out in the open, under the hot sun, which created a powerful smell and filthy gutter runoff in the street. No one living nearby appreciated this blatant disregard for the appearance of the neighborhood, yet alone the health risks associated with dead animal remnants. We respectfully ask that Young Israel of Beverly Hills not continue to rent to any organization, company, or individual for the purpose of using live chickens for Kapparot. Most Kapparot celebrants today, by an overwhelming number, use coins as an acceptable means for atoning for one’s sins and a method that is in keeping with Judaism’s strong tradition of kindness and respect for other animals.
Please respond within two weeks as to your decision regarding the rental of your space for the purposes of Kapparot. This is our first attempt at working with you to ensure that chickens do not suffer the torment, deprivations, and killings that others experienced in 2013 and in previous years. We prefer not to create a public discussion surrounding this issue, but we are willing to bring this to the attention of the public if need be. Please let us know your decision via email at email@example.com.
Pico-Robertson Neighbors to End Chickens as Kapparot
Rabbi Eliyahu FinkRabbi Jonathan KleinRabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
Pacific Jewish CenterFaith Action for Animals Shamayim V’Aretz Inst.