Meet Chabad of Irvine

Located in Irvine, California, Chabad of Irvine is deeply committed to serving the local Jewish community. The synagogue has served the area since 1979, offering ministries like counseling, hospital visitations, clubs for young children and adults, religious education and more.

Every year in preparation for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Chabad of Irvine follows Jewish tradition and performs the kaporos ceremony, where the atonement of sins is contemplated through prayer and the kosher killing of a chicken, reminding participants of their own mortality.

Such kaporos ceremonies are common among Jewish communities across the nation and the world and have been a core aspect of celebrating Yom Kippur for at least 1,100 years.

A Religious Practice Attacked

On September 29, 2016, the Maryland-based animal rights organization United Poultry Concerns (UPC) filed a lawsuit against Chabad of Irvine in an attempt to stop the synagogue from performing the kaporos ceremony.

Days later on October 7, a California federal district court issued an ex parte Temporary Restraining Order that banned Chabad of Irvine from holding their kaporos services. The Court set a hearing date for October 13. Yom Kippur ends on October 12.

“The kaporos ceremony is a cherished tradition of our faith,” Rabbi Alter Tenenbaum, the rabbi of the Chabad of Irvine, says. “For a court to order us to stop our religious practice because some refuse to tolerate our beliefs is deeply distressing.”

First Liberty Legal Action

First Liberty Institute appeared as Chabad of Irvine’s legal representation on October 11, 2016, filing a brief with the federal district court on behalf of the synagogue. Read the brief.

“This drastic judicial measure has prevented people in the Jewish community from fully exercising their faith on Yom Kippur,” said Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “We cannot allow a special interest group to trample on the religious rights of the Orthodox Jewish community.”

In the brief, First Liberty and synagogue leaders ask the court to lift the temporary restraining order and allow members of Chabad of Irvine to practice their faith during Yom Kippur.

Last Second Relief

Less than three hours prior to the start of Yom Kippur, First Liberty and its volunteer attorneys with the international law firm of WilmerHale appeared on behalf of Chabad of Irvine before a federal district judge, asking the judge to lift the Temporary Restraining Order. After a lengthy argument, and with less than twenty minutes before the start of Yom Kippur, the judge lifted the order, freeing Chabad of Irvine to perform the kaporos ritual.

“Since being retained by Chabad of Irvine on Monday evening, our legal team has literally worked around the clock to preserve the free exercise of this Jewish community,” said Hiram Sasser. “This is a significant victory for people of all religious beliefs.”

This year, as in the past 1,100 years, the Jewish community remains free to observe its religious rituals. Lawyers for Chabad of Irvine will soon return to court to ensure that Chabad of Irvine remains permanently free to exercise its faith for years to come.

For Immediate Release: October 11, 2016

Contact: Kassie Dulin, kdulin@firstliberty.org
Cell: 214-542-4334, Direct: 972-941-4575


At an emergency hearing held only hours before Yom Kippur starts, Judge André Birotte, Jr. restores right of Jewish synagogue members to practice a historic religious ritual

Irvine, Calif. – Late Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Court judge André Birotte, Jr. lifted a temporary restraining order that had been issued against the Chabad of Irvine, a small Orthodox Jewish synagogue. The order had prevented the synagogue’s members from fully practicing a traditional Yom Kippur ritual called a kaporos ceremony.

“We are grateful to Judge Birotte for taking emergency action to ensure that the Jewish synagogue members’ First Amendment rights were safeguarded during Yom Kippur,” Matthew Martens, partner with international law firm WilmerHale and lead counsel for the synagogue, says.

“Every American has a right to practice their religious traditions in peace,” Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute and co-counsel for the synagogue, says. “This is a great victory not only for the rights of the members of the synagogue, but for every person of faith in America.”

About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans.

To arrange an interview, contact Kassie Dulin, Director of Legal Communications for First Liberty Institute. Email: kdulin@firstliberty.org, Direct: 972-941-9575, Cell: 214-542-4334.

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Download this press release here

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