Assemblyman Hikind (D-Brooklyn) called recent attacks on the community’s right to use chickens as kapparos “an attack on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution,” which prohibits interfering with the free exercise of religion.
The Assemblyman’s comments came in response to the group The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, which filed an order at the Supreme Court of Kings County to enjoin Brooklyn residents from organizing, conducting or participating in the kaporos events involving chickens during the week of September 29th, 2013.
Assemblyman Hikind was contacted by a community member named on the complaint. The Assemblyman immediately sought to contact the plaintiff’s attorney, Jessica Astrof, who explained to one of his staff members that she herself was a Torah observant Jew but that she was concerned with the “ongoing and potential anti-Semitism” caused by the mistreatment of thousands of chickens shipped to Brooklyn for the annual kaporos events. The chickens, she said, are left starving for days before the kaporos and many are found dead causing a public health hazard.
“Using chickens as kaporos is a sacred and ancient tradition that observant Jews have practiced and will continue to practice,” said Assemblyman Hikind. “We have a Torah prohibition of Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim, banning cruelty to animals, and those who use chickens as kaporos are enjoined to hold to that principle. If there’s a problem-if the animals are treated cruelly-that’s a violation of our beliefs. And they are certainly of no use if they are starved and die before they can be used and properly schechted [ritually slaughtered], then donated to tzedaka [charity]. When an unfortunate incident occurs, that is certainly no reason to attack the entire practice. The vast majority of institutions and individuals perform this minhag [custom] respectfully and with an eye toward halachah [Jewish Law], which protects everyone concerned, animals included.
“In certain European countries, there are movements to ban circumcision and ritual slaughter. Fortunately, we have the Constitution protecting the religious rights of our citizens. I hope the judge today throws out this needless attack on Orthodox Judaism and Freedom of Religion.”
Assemblyman Hikind said that one of his staff members will attend today’s hearing at 2pm at the Supreme Court of Kings County.