When the Chickens Went on Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale

"Customs come and customs go.
I learned this all from chickens."

Rosh Hashanah... the Jewish New year... begins on September 9, 2018 and ends on September 11, 2018.  During Rosh Hashanah people will sound the shofar each morning, light candles in the evenings, enjoy festive meals with friends and family, and attend services at a synagogue.  Traditional Rosh Hashanah foods include apples dipped in honey, round challah bread, pomegranates, and the head of a fish.

Apples, honey, pomegranate and shofar


During this time, some people will perform kapores (also known as kapparot).  Kapores is a customary Jewish atonement ritual practiced by some Jews. This is a practice in which a chicken or money is waved over a person's head and the chicken is then slaughtered in accordance with halachic rules and donated to charity.

Kapores is a controversial practice and people often choose to wave money instead of a chicken.  Some choose not to do either.  Erica Silverman tells the story of kapores from an interesting perspective... from the perspective of the chickens!  The story is called When the Chickens Went on Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale and was first published in 2003.

About the Book

From GoodreadsOne Rosh Hashanah, a boy overhears some chickens planning a strike. They are sick of being used for Kapores, the New Year custom in which people swing a live chicken over their heads, hoping to erase their bad deeds. When all of the chickens run away, the women try to coax them back with grain, the men try to get them back with force, and the rabbi tries to negotiate. Finally the boy pleads, "Without Kapores, I will never be able to make my papa proud." A chicken responds, "Boychick, for this you need a chicken?" This amusing and telling story about wise chickens and foolish villagers will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever wanted to be a better person. 

Reader Response Samples

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to read When the Chickens Went on Strike with a group of third grade boys.  I met them at their Jewish school in Buffalo, NY.  They told me they all celebrated Rosh Hashanah, but only half of them participated in the act of kapores.  Some waved money.  Some waved chickens.

The boys enjoyed listening to the story.  They laughed at the funny parts and became thoughtful when the main character spoke of wanting to be a better person.  We had a lengthy discussion about customs, traditions, and how they change and they took delight in teaching me about kapores and modeling how it's done.  (No worries... no chickens were used!)  Afterward, they sat and worked independently on their reading response papers below.

"My favorite part of the story is when the chickens attacked the people.  And that is why I liked the story. "

"Chickens: We are tired of being swung around and around.  
People: But we need you for our holiday!"

"The chickens wanted freedom.  They did not like kapores."

"The women ran away from the chicken and the men fast."

"Us chickens aren't going to be used for kapores, so we will hide from those evil, criminal people.  Right?"

(In case you are wondering about the stars... the boys received stars for attempting to write a paragraph, staying on the main idea, describing an event, and drawing a full color illustration.) 

Get the Worksheet

If you are interested in this book and using the reader response sheet with your students, you may download the worksheet by clicking the image below.  This is a FREE download and no purchase is required.  Please noteClicking on this image will take you to my Kelly's Classroom store on the TeachersPayTeachers third party website.

Reader Response Sheet

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