Federal judge issues restraining order on annual kapparot ritual in Irvine

(JTA) — A Los Angeles Federal Court judge ordered a temporary restraining order against performing the religious Jewish ceremony of kapparot, an annual pre-Yom Kippur ritual in which a chicken is swung from its legs and then slaughtered.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birrote Jr. on Friday granted the temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit filed late last month on behalf of the Virginia-based United Poultry Concerns against the Chabad of Irvine and an unnamed rabbi.

The judge set a hearing for Thursday in which Chabad Irvine will have the chance to contest a preliminary injunction that would prevent the ritual practice. Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday evening and ends on Wednesday night so the injunction essentially prevents the ritual from being performed in honor of the holiday this year.

Kapparot is an ancient ritual practiced between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which a chicken is swung over the head and then slaughtered in a symbolic transference of a person’s sins in advance of the Jewish Day of Atonement. The meat of the chicken is then donated to charity. Some people perform the ritual using money in place of a chicken, which is then donated to charity.


The lawsuit alleged that the chickens are crammed tightly in cages and mishandled, and that the chickens are disposed of and not used for food.

An attorney for the group told the Orange County Register that it is now considering action against other Jewish centers that use live chickens.

A similar lawsuit filed on behalf of the San Diego-based Animal Protection and Rescue League is making its way through the state court system. A lawsuit calling for an emergency restraining order against the ritual was denied last year, according to the Register.

Lawsuits filed last year in suburban Detroit and New York City were decided in favor of holding the holiday ritual.