I cannot even begin to wonder at the thoughts of this young woman as she performs Kaparot and reads the sacred prayer. In Kaparot, prayers are recited to symbolically transfer the sins accumulated through the year into the chicken. The chicken is then slaughtered according to Kosher law, and often the meat is given to charity. Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Wednesday.
County health inspectors have found violations after visiting a makeshift chicken pen providing animals used by ultra-Orthodox Jews seeking to repent before Yom Kippur observances.
As dozens of families and individuals completed the ceremony ~ called Kapparot ~ on Monday, more people followed in the rear parking lot of the former Monsey Jewish Center on Route 306.
Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews circled chickens above their heads three times before returning the chickens to handlers.
The tradition calls for slaughtering the fowl, which is considered an integral and deeply moving part of the introspections that take place days before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Dozens of white chickens were inside two large enclosures set up under white tents, and several participants said the chickens would be slaughtered at the ritual's end, their meat donated to the poor.
A man who identified himself as a son of organizer Moshe Lefkowitz declined to comment and said his father was too busy to speak after several requests for comment were made.
A Rockland County Health Department inspector visited Monday and found violations of the county sanitary code, including a strong, bad odor; a small amount of chicken feces and feathers on the ground; trash on the ground; and a trash bin without a cover, said Kevin Mackey, a health inspector supervisor.
Mackey said the Health Department plans to reinspect the site daily until the ceremony ends and to make sure the organizer corrects violations.
Kapparot ceremonies were going on at two other sites in Monsey yesterday: along Monsey Boulevard and Maple Avenue. The county Health Department plans to inspect those, as well, officials said.
This marks the third consecutive year the Health Department has visited the chicken pens set up by Lefkowitz.
After the ritual, the birds are butchered.This hen seems oddly resigned to her fate.
Last year, he set up pens at the Route 306 location; the year before, he set them up in front of the former Rockland Drive-In movie theater on Route 59.
In both previous cases, health inspectors found violations. The status of fines levied for the violations could not be determined late Monday. Previous violations included leaving the site of the 2007 Kapparot ceremony strewn with blood, feces, feathers and other garbage that attracted flies and maggots and caused the potential for disease.
Health Department representatives explained the procedures Lefkowitz needed to follow during the first, and before the second, as well as the current, ceremonies.
In a letter dated Aug. 27 and obtained by The Journal News on Monday through the Freedom of Information Law, Thomas Micelli, the county's director of environmental health, outlined seven steps for organizers to follow.
The letter reiterated the organizers' "intended plans for the approximately 11,000 chickens that will be delivered" between Monday and Friday, and again between Sept. 27 and Sept. 29.
The steps included providing a trash bin to be replaced as it filled up; sawdust to make the cleanup of feces and liquids easier; disposable tarps to avoid the need for excessive cleaning; platforms so chickens in bottom cages don't drown if it rains heavily; 30-inch-high wire fences for a secondary enclosure to help avoid chicken escapes; and daily cleanup.
The letter also says that tarps should be disposed of and fecal matter and other material should not be allowed to enter the unprotected ground surface and storm sewers.
The Kapparot ceremony was first mentioned in Jewish writings as early as 800 A.D.
What about vegan and vegetarian Jews? What do they do? What about those with dietary limitations?
While kaparot is still practiced by more orthodox Jews, most Jews today perform kaparot by waving money wrapped in a white cloth napkin over their head, reciting the prayer and then giving the money to charity following the ceremony.
Kaparot is supposed to imbue people with a feeling that their very lives are at stake as Yom Kippur approaches. The kaparot ceremony is meant to symbolically express our recognition that we have sinned and are no longer deserving of life (like the chicken), but we can be saved from the penalty we deserve if we repent, perform good deeds, and give charity.
A young Hasidim father performs Kaparot over his young children.
The controversy over the ritual also is old. As early as the 1400s, Jewish authorities opposed the ceremony, maintaining that it was a pagan rite that had mistakenly made its way into Jewish custom.
The county sanitary code does not prohibit a large number of chickens from being kept in a residential area.
No permit is needed to keep chickens, according to the county.
On the day of Yom Kippur, the following prayer, The KOL NIDRE, is repeated several times during the day so that every Jew as an opportunity to repeat it. Personally, I think it explains Bernie Madoff and the Kosher thugs on Wall Street and in international politics very well. Tell me what you think when you have read it for yourself.