By Andrea Karshan
On October 1, 2016, there was a Kapparot Protest in Crown Heights on President Street and Kingston Avenue.
According to Chabad.org, during Kapparot, a Jew’s sins are transferred to a chicken through performing the ritual of gently passing it over one’s head three times while reciting the appropriate text, and then having it slaughtered with halachic procedure and donating the chicken to charity.
Some animal rights activists, vegans, vegetarians and Jews who don’t participate in this ritual are very upset by this practice. They gather to protest at these events. I witnessed this in my neighborhood.
I am not here to argue whether the practice is humane or not. But I do want to comment on the protests.
The protesters weren’t just screaming about the chickens, but they were hurling insults at the local Jews. The amount of personal insults, antisemitism and insults against the Jewish immigrant population in the neighborhood I heard were shocking.
As I returned home, and this time I wasn’t filming, I walked by three protesters. One yelled that my husband was a whore, one yelled that I was a murderer, and one yelled that I was going to hell. All of them did this to me as I was walking down the street. I didn’t approach them. They got in my face and screamed at me. And I wasn’t performing the ritual either.
After this incident, I asked a police officer why they don’t arrest the protesters for harassing the public. The officer said that if they arrested the protesters, they would also have to arrest the Jews. He said everyone was being nasty. He said it was coming from both sides. The officer said if the police arrested people “there would be nobody left.”
I understand the police’s position. But I tend to side with the Jewish people in the neighborhood on this one. These people are here protesting, provoking them. You can’t just expect them not to say anything back when the protesters hurl insults at them. I truly believe that most of these protesters don’t even live in this neighborhood. I know they don’t live on the street it was occurring on. So this is our neighborhood. These protesters are coming here and disrupting our neighborhood.
Another thing I noticed about the protesters was that some of them didn’t know what their own signs meant. I asked one woman if she was Jewish because she was holding a Hebrew sign. She told me that I didn’t have the right to ask her that. Fair enough. But I said to her that her sign was in Hebrew. She went on to explain that she had been to the synagogue several times but didn’t know Hebrew. She then turned the sign and showed me some writing in English. At first thought it was a translation, but then I later realized it wasn’t. I also heard one of the other protesters saying he didn’t know what the Hebrew meant on his sign.
Update: Some Jewish Crown Heights residents have been reporting on social media being violently attacked by some of the protesters.
If you watch the YouTube video above, you will see one situation that almost turned violent (at 13:32 in YouTube video). The police had to step in and separate the two parties.
Update: The Gothamist reported that Eddie Sullivan, an animal rights activist, was arrested the weekend before the Crown Heights protest for assaulting a horse carriage driver near Central Park. He was seen in the YouTube video above at 13:32 in a confrontation with a woman. He was also cursing and screaming at Jewish residents throughout the protest.