NEW YORK - Some in the Orthodox Jewish community are upset that a public reminder not to feed the ducks and geese in Prospect Park includes a reference to Passover.
According to a report in the New York Times, the Prospect Park Alliance sent a letter to local officials that said “As Passover approaches, Prospect Park is reaching out to the public regarding the removal of chametz (e.g. bread and other leavened products) from the home.”
The wording of the letter made many in the community feel they were being singled out unfairly for something that isn’t even a custom.
“It sounds like someone who does not have any cultural sensitivity,” Gary Schlesinger, director of United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment, told 1010 WINS. “Before an official makes any false comments, he or she should learn the customs of the community before any statements are given.”
Typically, ahead of Passover all leavened products are burned or given away. Leavened products, such as bread, are not consumed on Passover as a reminder that there wasn’t time to let the bread rise during the exodus from Egypt.
Paul Nelson, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance, said they’re merely responding to what has happened in years past.
“We would see people with shopping bags full and we would say, ‘excuse me, what are you doing, you really can’t feed the waterfowl’ and they would say ‘oh, we’re getting rid of the bread by feeding to the waterfowl because we’re clearing our houses out for Passover,’” Nelson told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams.
Nelson said feeding bread to the waterfowl isn’t good for them and it attracts unwanted birds.
“We’re not accusing anyone of doing anything. We’re not saying it’s part of a ritual. We’re just saying please don’t feed the waterfowl and here are some things you can do,” Nelson said. “We have dumpsters. City Harvest has a great program where you can donate the bread.”
Schlesinger believes whoever sent out the message should be fired and retract the statement.
“Something like this doesn’t bode well and definitely brings ill will towards the community that’s surrounding Prospect Park,” Schlesinger said. “We’re asking that official who gave out the statement to either retract it or just get fired for doing something like this.”