Chicken-Swinging for the Soul
The New York Times visits Brooklyn on the eve of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, to observe the tradition of kaparot, in which Orthodox Jews take live chickens, swing them over their heads as a means of symbolically transferring sins to the chickens, and then ritually slaughter them.
Each year in Brooklyn alone the tradition consumes tens of thousands of chickens, which are then given to charity. Though a dissident perspective is only glancingly alluded to in this video, the ritual has come under criticism by animal activists, and even within the local Jewish population. Few of the chickens are eaten, and one report said that they were not being slaughtered in a manner consistent with kosher standards. Some rabbis have strongly opposed kaparot, suggesting either that it is a pagan ritual or that it violates Jewish teaching about the humane treatment of animals. Some have suggested alternatives to chickens, such as fish, or a charitable contribution. Still, as this video attests, the ritual is still quite popular in Crown Heights.
Video: Corey Kilgannon