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It’s the week between Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the fasting Day of Atonement. This period of introspection, called the Days of Awe, includes another observance for ultra-Orthodox Jews (also known as Hasidic or Haredi Jews): sacrificing chickens.

This kaparot ceremony (also spelled kaparos and several other ways) has caused a lot of controversy in recent years, with objections raised by animal rights groups like PETA and local health officials who say the large gatherings leave feces, feathers and blood everywhere. (The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, organized by United Poultry Concerns, held some protests in Brooklyn yesterday.) In my own Religion News Service reporting, I also found Jews disgusted by the actions of this small subset of their faith, arguing that this tradition is not theologically required, wasn’t meant to be conducted in large urban and suburban settings, and could be performed by saying a prayer over a donation of money, rather than a doomed chicken.

Some other links:

Then again, as Avi Shafran, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community leader said in my RNS story, “I think that the religious freedom our Constitution affords its citizens well covers the choice to use a chicken in a ceremony.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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