Thursday, November 13, 2014

Karen Davis, anti-kapporos activist, misses the mark on Jewish theology

For the past few years I have been a part of The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, (hereafter referred to as "the Alliance"), a protest group headed by animal rights activist Karen Davis, campaigning to end the use of live chickens in a pre-Yom Kippur Jewish atonement ceremony practiced by some groups of Orthodox and Hasidic Jews.  (Read more on that...)  I advocate using the alternative, fully acceptable by Jewish law, to use money for the ceremony instead, then donating it to charity.

Anti-kapporos protest on Brooklyn Parkway, 2014.
Karen Davis is in the center holding a chicken.
(Photo by Matthew Taub)
I was among the early founders of the Alliance org -- I even helped think up the name.  In 2013, I narrated a one-minute slide show for them called A Heartfelt Plea for Mercy, and provided text and images for some of their protest posters.  (Including the one with the mother hen and chicks in this photo.)  I do not deny or retract those things, because I still believe in everything I said back then.

However, this past year before Yom Kippur, I found it necessary to distance myself from Davis' campaign.  This article explains why.

Let me be very, very clear that I still oppose using chickens as kapporos and will continue to do so.  But I have come to believe that Karen Davis -- who is not Jewish and does not understand Judaism or Jewish culture -- is the wrong person to be leading a campaign about an Orthodox Jewish ceremony.  Especially since she draws wrong conclusions about Hasidic beliefs and refuses to listen to real Hasidim -- like me -- who try to correct her.

I do recognize that Davis has done a lot of very good work for sensitizing the public to the suffering and exploitation of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other domestic fowl.  If she would just stick to science and secular animal issues, everything would be fine.  But when it comes to Jewish theology -- which she confuses with Christian thought (more on that below) -- she is like a runaway tank in a minefield.  And this year, it all blew up in my face.

Preaching to the vegan choir?

Karen Davis is a vegan.  A very radical vegan.  To her, veganism is not just a diet, not just a personal lifestyle choice -- it's a religion, complete with dogmas, taboos, and its own special terminology.

Although there is no mention of veganism on the Alliance website, the group is in fact a vegans-only club, rejecting any argument that is not 100% vegan in content.  Although nobody ever insisted I had to become a vegan (I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian, eating only eggs from my own chickens), neither would they listen to any viewpoint that was not vegan.  Over the past three years Davis, who runs the group with an iron fist, has refused to use or forward links to any of my articles on this blog that even mentioned  slaughter.  Not even if such articles were effective within the Hasidic community.  Davis, it seems, prefers preaching to the vegan choir rather than preaching to the people who actually do this ceremony.

The problem with this approach is that the vast majority of Hasidim are not vegetarians, let alone vegans, and the idea of mixing this issue with veganism is counterproductive.  If you use this "all-or-nothing" approach, most Hasidim will chose "nothing."  Going vegan means a lot more in Judaism than just giving up meat, because so many traditional Jewish foods and holy days center around meat.  It can be exceedingly disruptive to a family to go vegan cold turkey (pardon the expression.)  .

On the other hand, if you can start with simply giving up using a live chicken and substituting money for kapporos, this is not so threatening.  And it can be one step toward vegetarianism in the future.  I have seen it happen.  In fact, this has long been a Hasidic method of bringing Jews back to Torah observances:  Start with a few practices, rather than hit people with all of it at once.

When I first joined the Alliance, on the recommendation of Richard H. Schwartz, then president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America  (JVNA), I had no idea that veganism would be the litmus test for whether or not an argument could be used.  Since this was a specifically Jewish issue, I naturally assumed the keystone would be Judaism.

I had worked with Schwartz before and, although he himself is a vegan, he does not insist that this is the only way to present animal issues to Jews.  In his now-classic book, Judaism and Vegetarianism, he covers many different philosophical approaches -- from health to theology to world hunger -- as to why a person should give up meat.  And he considers them all valid.  He does not condemn Judaism for permitting meat, nor does he villify the rabbis and sages who ate it in the past.  He simply argues that in today's modern world, vegetarianism -- or even veganism -- is the best way to keep kosher.

So I naively assumed that we, in the Alliance, would take a similar approach, arguing from within the multi-faceted aspects of the Jewish worldview.  But I was wrong.

Inadvertently arousing antisemitism

I also assumed -- wrongly -- that Davis was Jewish, because "Davis" is a common Jewish surname.  Only later did I learn she is not.  This is not to say that a non-Jew cannot work on this issue, but I do feel that he or she should take the advice of those who are Jewish and who know the culture from within.  Which Davis does not.  To her, veganism is a religion, complete with dogmas she will not violate.  One of those dogmas is that you should never, ever appear to allow slaughtering anything for any reason.  You cannot ever believe that any kind of slaughter could be humane, or you become a heretic.  And that includes kosher slaughtering.  Even PETA does not go as far as Davis does.

The result is, that Davis has said and written some gross misinformation about Hasidism that has aroused antisemitism, even if that was not her intent.  I do believe her when she says she is not an antisemite and is just concerned with the abuse of animals by anybody anywhere.  But she is cluelessly naive about how her words can be twisted by those who are Jew-haters.  Targeting kapporos is not the same as protesting outside McDonalds.  Kapporos is a Jewish ceremony, practiced in some communities of Orthodox Jews who are already seen as highly visible "outsiders" by many Americans.  Unless handled with care and respect, the issue can spill over into hatred against all Jews -- which, in some cases, it has.

My attempts to educate Davis and the protesters

Early on, I raised the point that Davis was doing nothing to educate the protesters about the positive things in Hasidic culture, and that if their only contact with Hasidim was to show up once a year and yell "meat is murder" at the kapporos centers, then she was arousing hatred toward Hasidim in general.  She replied in an email that she was not the one abusing chickens, so I should direct my anger at the Hasidim, not the protesters.  She took absolutely no responsibility for the numerous vicious, antisemitic remarks coming from the vegan community in support of her cause.

We may all look alike to you,
but we do not THINK alike.
I am not the face of the enemy
Davis herself is not an antisemite, but a lot of her readers sure are.  The first time I visited the Alliance Facebook page I got flamed as "the enemy" based on my profile picture.  To her credit, pagemaster Rina Deych removed the offending comments and added to the "About Us" page a statement that the Alliance is against the ceremony only, not Hasidic culture in general.  But the fact that this happened at all was disconcerting, to say the least.  Apparently they saw only the clothes and not the face on the posters they were carrying.  If this happened with a member of any other group it would be blatant racism.

When I suggested we write some educational materials to send to protest organizers before the next year's events, she showed no interest.  So I took it upon myself to write a series of articles on my blog, as well as post a download link to Richard Schwartz's interview with me, Raising Holy Sparks: Hasidism and Vegetarianism, included in his 2012 book, Who Stole My Religion: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet.  (Visit the book homepage.)

Davis' response was to write off the whole "Raising Sparks" thing as "a solipsistic conceit" (her words.)   It wasn't vegan, so it wasn't valid, period.  She even refused to forward the link to my 2013 article, Kapporos chickens don't sing! to activist Rina Deych, who told the story that inspired the article in the first place.  (However, to be fair, it does appear that other activists read the article and understood it, as witnessed by this poster in the 2014 protests.)

Whenever I posted a new article, Davis's only response would be to nitpick why it was not vegan enough.  When she viewed my 14-minute video on Raising Sparks and why I believe it leads to vegetarianism, she asked if she could use just the "Forward to Eden" part at the end and cut out the rest.  Which of course would have gutted the whole thing, so I refused.

The one exception to all this was Kapporos protests: What works and what doesn't, where I carefully danced around the vegan issue in order to get it past the Davis censorship.  That one she did link to, but not any of the materials that attempted to educate the protesters about Hasidic theology.

The last straw

The last straw for me came in August 2014, when I designed a flyer specifically directed at Hasidim, speaking from within that worldview. (View and/or download it here).  Davis would not use it because I had told the story of how the Baal Shem Tov used to cry when he had to slaughter an animal.  She accused me of "pulling a knife" (her words) on her for even mentioning slaughter in the same sentence as "compassion" and stated that the Baal Shem Tov could not have possibly have had any compassion if he was willing to slaughter at all.

She thereby wrote off the founder of Hasidim and with it, the entire culture and worldview.  (Not to mention that she also, by this argument, would write off Jesus as having no compassion, since he also ate meat.  So did Francis of Assisi, the Roman Catholic patron saint of animals.)

Davis kept citing the Mission Statement of her org, United Poultry Concerns which funds the Alliance.  That Statement reads: ""Promoting the Compassionate and Respectful Treatment of Domestic Fowl."  It was then that I realized that "compassion" is a code word for "vegan."  She could not say the Baal Shem Tov has compassion when he slaughtered because compassion, to her, means no slaughtering, period,.  And, I suppose, one cannot be "respectful" in her eyes if one is not vegan, either.  Her "About us" page says "We inform people about and actively promote alternatives."  But in reality "alternatives" is not really a plural.  Veganism is the Only Way

Comparing the Holocaust and 9/11 victims to chicken slaughter

The problem is, Davis sees any use of animals as "exploitation" and cruelty.  There are no degrees of difference in her mind between a Native American who prays for the soul of the animal he kills, reverently thanking it for giving its life so the people may live, and a psychopath who abuses animals for personal pleasure.  Beyond that, she sees no difference between animals and humans, and has compared factory farms to the Holocaust, as well as stating that the people who died in the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers did not suffer any more than chickens in the meat industry.  On a physiological level that may be true -- pain is pain -- but it shows a terrible disregard for human feelings to say that the life of a child in a daycare center was worth no more than that of a chicken.  Talk about lack of compassion!

Inadvertently (?) citing gnostic canards about Judaism

It became obvious to me that because Judaism permits eating meat, Davis feels this invalidates everything else.  At one point she told me to "get in touch with the God of Genesis" -- in opposition to the God who permits slaughter.  I doubt she realizes that she had just invoked a very antisemitic gnostic Christian belief from the Middle Ages, namely, that the "real" God of compassion who made the universe was not the "God of the Jews."  Davis is not sophisticated enough in theology to realize -- or even recognize -- the pitfalls of this type of thinking.  I doubt she would actually call Jews "children of Satan" or burn them at the stake as witches like the medieval Christians did.  But as I said before, when it comes to theology, she is a runaway tank in a minefield.

Davis confuses Jewish and Christian theology about Atonement

More recently, she has taken to stating that Jews are purposely "punishing" the chickens as "objects" and that "abuse" is part of the ceremony.  She is basing this on references she found where kapporos is compared to the biblical scapegoat.  She wrongly assumes that means it takes on all the suffering of the practitioner on a physical level.  In October 2014 she was quoted as saying, referring to kapporos chickens:  “They’re treated like what they are intended to be in the ritual, punished objects,  The only role of the chicken in the ritual is to be a symbolic recipient of the sins or wrongdoings and the punishment of the practitioner, to be mistreated, to be punished.”
Mistreating chickens like this is NOT part of
the ceremony, nor is it "punishment."  It is
a by-product of the modern secular meat industry.

Yes, it is true that the chickens suffer terribly when being trucked in without food or water, then stacked in piles of little cages -- again without food or water -- for days.  But this mishandling is not part of the ceremony!  All that is required is to say the blessing and slaughter the bird, period.  Even if is done with the most gentle care, with a healthy. well-cared-for, free-range bird handled properly, it is still kapporos -- and that is what it used to be before modernization.

There is NO requirement for the bird to tortured or "be punished."  There is NO requirement for the birds to mishandled, starved, etc. -- in fact, those are things that invalidate the ceremony, which is why rabbis who oppose it will focus on the cruelty of the pre-slaughter suffering.  Everything that happens before the actual saying of the blessing is NOT part of the ceremony.  To the contrary.  The cruelty in transporting and handling the chickens under modern conditions is frequently cited as an argument against using live chickens, based on the prohibition against cruelty to animals in Jewish law.  I myself have argued that the modern cruelty of mass production cancels out any value the ceremony once had in the past -- as I explained in my 2014 article, The Baal Shem Tov did it with a chicken, so why are you telling me not to?

Because the article quoting Davis was in The American Free Press, a white supremacist pub, I thought maybe she had been misquoted, or that the interviewer had distorted her words.  So I queried her.  It took almost a month for her to reply, but she did eventually say that she had no idea of the nature of this pub at the time (which I do believe, since their title is deceivingly innocuous) and was sorry she had give them an interview.  But she did not deny the statement about punishment.  On the contrary. she defended it and referred me back to a book she had previously quoted to me in an email, where the kapporos chicken is compared to the biblical scapegoat.  (Davis thinks I do not know my own theology and is forever trying to "correct me.")

Judaism and Christianity read biblical texts very differently!

However, once again, she misunderstood the reference, because she insists on equating "atonement" with "punishment."  Davis, who, I remind you once again, is not Jewish, simply cannot comprehend that the word "sacrifice" means one thing in Christianity and another thing in Judaism.  This is a common problem in general with Bible studies, where the issue is not only translation itself, but also the nuances of words in the different cultures.  The most common example being "eye for an eye," which, in the Christian world means tit-for-tat revenge, but in Jewish law means monetary compensation for the loss of the eye -- a very big difference!   In the same way, the words "sacrifice" and "atonement" have very different meanings in Judaism and Christianity.

The words translated as "sacrifice" also have different roots in Hebrew and Greek, a detail I won't go into here.  Suffice it to say, the scapegoat was not tortured, because it had to be a perfect specimen without any blemishes.  It was not even slaughtered.  Sins were symbolically placed on its head, but only by a laying on of the High Priest's hands.  Then it was sent off alive into the wilderness.  A second goat was slaughtered, but that was not the scapegoat.  And it was not tortured, either.

Once again:  All biblical sacrifices had to be perfect unblemished specimens (Leviticus 22), which means they must have been well-treated before being brought to the Temple in Jerusalem.  There was nothing in biblical times that even comes near to the horrors of today's factory farms.

Atonement does not mean torture

Yes, some people do see kapporos as an atonement sacrifice -- but in Judaism, that does NOT mean hours of torture.  This is not like Jesus on the Cross, where suffering in agony is part of the "sacrifice."  There is nothing in Judaism even remotely resembling Mel Gibson's R-rated film, Passion of the Christ.  And just because money -- which is an "object" -- can be substituted for a chicken does not mean the chicken is also a mere "object."  The bird can be redeemed -- ransomed -- with money, but that does not imply that the chicken is the same thing as money.

The Jews doing this ceremony do not wake up in the morning and say, "I'm going to go torture a chicken today so I can get rid of my sins."  Yes, some people do see the chicken as a substitute for their own death (which is theologically wrong but people believe it anyway).  And yes, some people do believe the chicken's soul benefits spiritually from this through helping to "raise the Holy Sparks," as I have written about.  But that does NOT mean they believe the chickens have to suffer or be punished.

But again, all my attempts to try to explain these things to Davis have fallen on deaf ears, and she continues to say this thing about Jews "punishing" the chickens.  Her mind is made up and she does not want to be confused by the facts.  More recently she has also claimed (in the American Free Press interview I mentioned earlier) that the whole thing is just made up "in the guise of religion" and the real purpose is for the rabbis to make a lot of money -- also wrong, but analyzing that charge will have to wait until another article, as this one is getting overly long.

Conclusion:  The difference between me and Davis

In conclusion, I will say that the big difference between me and Karen Davis is this: I protest out of love for my fellow Hasidim, seeking to lead them toward a more gentle way of life from within the Hasidic worldview.  I understand that these communities see themselves as the last remnants of a culture destroyed by the Holocaust, and that any change in religious practice can be seen as a betrayal of their martyred ancestors.  I respect that, and try to find arguments from within the tradition.

And I have had some success in this.  Right before Rosh Hashanah this year, a Chabad Hasid called from California to thank me for putting my materials online.  He had first found my videos on YouTube, then spent three hours reading this blog.  The result?  He said it "changed his thinking."  He also said the materials he found on on PETA, The Alliance, and other sites dd not move him because it was "all politics."  I was the only one he had found who came at it from the stand point of Jewish spirituality.

Davis should take a clue from this and similar stories.  But she cannot, because she has imprisoned her mind in the narrow vegan worldview.  She has no respect for Hasidim because they eat meat, and she comes at the issue filled with anger and rage.  She insists on projecting her own biases onto somebody else's culture.  As any anthropologist will tell you, that's a great big no-no.  To understand a culture, and to meaningfully dialogue with members of that culture, you need to be willing to see things from their point of view.  Davis is incapable of doing this.  Her  agenda is to make everyone vegans and, judging from the articles she has published,  she has no real respect for any other viewpoint.  Which makes her  very ineffective.

Not long ago another Chabad Hasid called me from Boro Park, NY, asking about my stance against kapporos.  We dialogued on the "Holy Sparks" doctrine and although we disagreed on how to interpret it, the conversation was mutually respectful.  During the course of the debate he asked me point blank if I thought the protests had ever convinced anybody not to use chickens as kapporos.  And I honestly had to say no, they have not.  I cannot think of a single instance where shouting "meat is murder" has changed anybody's mind in the Hasidic world.  On his end, he told me that nobody in his New York neighborhood takes the protests seriously, either.

The Alliance gets a lot of press, but has no real effect on Hasidim. It has become simply an annoyance to put up with -- one of many for a people who get harassed on the streets every day.  If anything, the disrespect of many protesters has caused the community to "circle the wagons" and hold on tighter to the tradition.  In the end, neither side is really listening to the other.

*  *  *

ADDENDA, added November 14, 2014 

Here is yet another place where she insisted on including the shipping of the chickens as part of the ritual.  This is from a mailing she did to her own org, United Poultry Concerns back in September 2006.  So this is not a one-time blooper on her part, it is a pattern of distortion she insists upon.   She stated:  "Kapparot includes the pre-ritual cruelty to the chickens, who are forced to sit crammed together in their own excrement for days without food, water or shelter awaiting their terrible death."

NO, as I explained above, kapparot as such does NOT include any "pre-ritual cruelty."  There is no requirement to "force" chickens to "sit in their own excrement," etc.  In the past, there were no factory farm cages, no open trucks, no sitting for days in warehouses.  As I explained in The Kapparot Ritual: how tradition has become a travesty, things were very different in pre-Holocaust Europe, where Jews lived is small villages and chickens were all locally raised free-range.  The problem today is urbanization, where people do not raise their own chickens and must truck them in from miles away.

To repeat:  NOTHING that happens before the blessing is said is required as part of the ritual, period.   Everything before that is secular and has no bearing at all on the ritual itself. 

Yes, cruelty happens nowadays in transit, because that is how ALL chickens are shipped and handled in the meat industry. The Jews are no worse than anybody else in this.  Yes, it is terrible.  Yes, it is cruelty for anybody to do that to a chicken, including those who slaughtered the secular meat sitting on your own plate.  But it is NOT part of the ceremony,  It is not "Jewish."  And it is NOT required that the birds be "punished" by starving them in cramped cages for days.

Granted, this was written in 2006 before I became involved with her, so maybe she was ignorant back then?  Maybe.  But since she said it again in 2014 (as cited in the article above), she has not become any more educated on the topic.  She certainly has not listened to me or anybody else.  

ADDENDA #2, added January 4, 2015

After writing this article, I found this by Davis in another interview from 2014  where she reveals that not only does she twist and misinterpret the ceremony, she has no respect for Hasidim in general:

Davis:  Rabbi Shea Hecht of the Lubavitch community, whose father began trucking chickens to Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1974 and whose family is regarded as the leading cause of the growth of using chickens for Kapparot in the U.S., told NPR in this September 2009 report:

“The main part of the service,” he says, “is handing the chicken to the slaughterer and watching the chicken being slaughtered. Because that is where you have an emotional moment, where you say, ‘Oops, you know what? That could have been me.’”

Now, it is true that Rabbi Hecht said this on NPR, in answer to why he does not use money instead.  However, what he meant -- and what it has always meant -- is that the death of the chicken should remind us of our own mortality -- that's the "emotional moment."  But she interprets it to mean something it has never meant in Judaism,   Once again, she projects her own vegan values on another culture.  She goes on to say:

In short, Rabbi Hecht, and probably many (though not all) other Kapparot practitioners who use chickens, enjoy the experience of making and watching a helpless creature suffer and die “for them” (be punished in their stead for their sins). They like the control and are gratified by the pain and suffering they can inflict with impunity in the guise of religion. Obviously it is not necessary to cause needless suffering and death in order to improve yourself — just the opposite.

There is NOTHING in Hasidism about "enjoying" the suffering or being "gratified by the pain and suffering" and it is not done in the "guise" of religion.   Those who do it are sincere and do regard it as a form of worship.  Yes, there are differences of opinion about the validity of the ritual BUT this is true of just about everything in Judaism.  Rarely do Jews speak in one voice.  And just because one group rejects something does not mean it is invalid for everyone.

But this is not the end of it her diatribe.  It gets worse:

INTERVIEWER: Why don’t they just use bags of coins instead of the chickens?

DAVIS: As I just mentioned in the example of Rabbi Hecht, many Hasidic rabbis insist on swinging and slaughtering chickens for Kapparot instead of swinging bags of coins for symbolic atonement and charity: there is a liking for the slaughter, the power, the blood. As human psychology, it is about the desire to have an innocent victim (Lamb of God, Scapegoat, Jesus Christ, Thanksgiving Turkeys, Experimental Animals, Young Boys sent to war to be slaughtered) suffer and die for oneself/community/nation/society. It’s about the age-old system of belief in cleansing/purifying/expiating sins, vices and diseases by transferring them to an innocent victim or class of victims.

So here she actually says what I have deduced all along:  She is indeed confusing it with Jesus on the Crtoss, as I discussed above.  And this bit about the "liking for the slaughter, the power, the blood" is, again, NOT part of Judaism.  It is HER projection, her prejudice against anyone who eats meat, religious or not, whether in the present or in all past centuries.

When asked if all Jews do this, she says most are Hasidim but also some are "Conservative and Modern Orthodox."  I have never heard of any Conservative synagogue advocating kapporos with chickens -- most don't even do it with money.  Nor do most Modern Orthodox do it that way, if at all.  Where she gets this idea, I do not know.  Maybe she confusing Modern Orthodox with Haredim (who do use chickens)?  What I do know is that she is abysmally ignorant about the different kinds of Jews.  She often relies on third-hand information from books or uniformed non-religious token Jews in the vegan world.  Just because someone is born Jewish does not mean they know what they are talking about.

She then goes on to disparage not only the ritual, but all of the Hasidic community:

In addition, Hasidic communities/members will rarely depart from/defy what their specific rabbis tell them to do. Even if a member personally winces or objects, he or she won’t speak up publicly. These communities live strictly defined lives like the Amish, Jehovah Witnesses, and other extremely insular groups. Women are not respected as persons in their own right. Fear of being shunned/ostracized, having no other options or imaginings but to conform, stay, and obey, are motivations....

I am probably partly responsible for that last part.  At one point I tried to explain that while it was easy for her to come in once a year, scream "meat is murder," then disappear until next Yom Kippur, for people who actually live in the neighborhood, it is harder to go against the grain.  People have to live with each other, and Hasidim are not the only people on earth who avoid confrontations in order to get along with their neighbors.  That, plus the fact that public protests are not the way things get changed in traditional Jewish communities.  People do discuss things behind the scenes, there are differences of opinion, and variations within families.   Hasidim are not clones.  But neither are they going to join Davis on the barricades when she is so openly disparaging of their way of life.  As I noted above, the arguments that work are the ones she has rejected.

I explained this to her in order to get her to tone down the anti-Hasidic rhetoric but here she twisted my explanation to suit her own anti-religious attitudes -- even getting in a dig about how women are supposedly "not respected as persons" and thereby insulting my wife, who is a critical thinker and most certainly a "person in her own right."  (She just does not like a lot of publicity nor does she want her picture plastered all over the Internet.)

Davis then goes on:

Finally, the temples that do the ritual are said to make a lot of money from it — purchasing chickens very cheaply at a few cents on the dollar, and “selling” them to practitioners for a lot of money.

In another interview she quoted prices as $18 and $36 at some center -- unaware that these are normal amounts Jews give to charity.  Jewish fundraisers always ask for donations in multiples of 18,   Even those of us who use money instead often give $18 -- so that is not seen as exhorbitant in our culture.  I would prefer everyone just give the money and skip the chicken slaughter, but I am not offended by it being used as a fundraiser and certainly not for asking $18.  And, we should note, not all kapporos centers charge this much.

Besides, Davis get money off this issue, too.  By her own admission in her newsletter (Poultry Press, Winter 2014 issue, p. 12), she spent $23,532 on the anti-kapporos campaign in 2014.  If she has the funds to do this, then she, too, is making money off kapporos --  through her sensationalist tactics.  This figure came at the end of an anti-kapporos article, and right below it there was a plea for funds.  My bet is, kapporos is one of her best sources of income for her org, because it is so easy to arouse public opinion with graphic photos and inflammatory rhetoric.  So the pot calls the kettle black...

She then ended with:

(For the record, I am not Jewish or religious. I grew up in a family that attended the Methodist Church down the street from us, but religion never influenced me as a worldview. No religion even if proven “true” would reconcile me in the slightest to the way things are.)

Not that she would not accept any religion even if it were true.   A rather odd statement if she is really interested in truth, but that is certainly her privilege.  However, with an attitude like that, she is never, ever going to make any kind of impact on religious people.   She has certainly turned me off -- and I am against using chickens.  But if forced to choose between her antagonism and my faith, I choose Hasidism.  And so, I shall continue to educate my people about why we should use money and not chickens, but henceforth I'll do it without Karen Davis.

*   *  *

To learn how you can be effective in this campaign, get my new book, just out on June 4:  Kapporos Then and Now: Toward a More Compassionate Tradition available on  Neither a vegetarian manifesto nor a "Torah-True" religious tract, I approach the issue as a combination of theologian, cultural anthropologist, and participatory journalist, offering numerous reasons why using money is a better option today -- but also critiquing both sides for both their strong and weak points.  WARNING:  Whether you are for or against using chickens as Kapporos, this book requires an open mind to read. 

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