Park pans Passover bread-tossing — a tradition Jews say doesn’t exist

The Brooklyn Paper
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Prospect Park officials are urging Jews to stop throwing bread into the green space’s massive lake as a Passover rite, but religious Brooklynites insist that’s not even part of their holiday tradition.

The Prospect Park Alliance sent out a press release earlier this month warning Jews that waterfowl suffer when the observant use the park’s 60-acre lake as a place to toss chametz — leavened breads that cannot be consumed or kept in the house during the eight-day holiday.

“For many years people have brought chametz to Prospect Park to throw into the lake to feed the waterfowl,” the release reads. “While this is done with the best of intentions, feeding the waterfowl can be very harmful to them.”

But Jewish community leaders across the borough say they have never heard of anyone disposing chametz into a body of water — instead they say that on March 25, the morning of the first Passover seder, Jews will take part in a thousand-year-old tradition by symbolically and communally burning their leftover chametz outside either their homes or synagogues.

“For Passover nobody drops the chametz into the lake. That is totally untrue,” said Gary Schlesinger, the executive director of the Williamsburg-based United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment organization, who added that he takes offense to the Prospect Park Alliance’s singling out of the Jewish community as a whole.

“The press release doesn’t say it’s just a couple of people,” said Schlesinger who has called upon the Alliance to retract the “appalling” release.

Schlesinger and other Jewish leaders suspect that the Prospect Park Alliance is mistaking Passover with the Jewish ritual of tashlich — a custom in which Jews gather by bodies of water to toss bread crusts in a symbolic cleansing ceremony.

But tashlich is generally performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah before Yom Kippur in the early fall — roughly six months from now.

“They don’t have their facts straight,” said Chanina Sperlin, the executive vice chairman of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. “They should learn the customs of the Jewish community. Nobody is throwing any bread of food or any such items into the water before Passover.”

Prospect Park Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson said that he is certain his organization did not mix up the holidays — and that bread-tossing is a real concern for park birds.

“We know about the religious ceremony right before Yom Kippur. That’s not the issue,” said Nelson. “We have observed for years people bringing bread to the park right before Passover. It’s not one neighborhood or one branch of Judaism. It’s not an organized process or one group. That’s why we’re trying to get the word out to as many different places as possible.”

Nelson said that the Alliance has installed eight additional Dumpsters in the park in hopes visitors will choose to trash their chametz instead of throwing it into the lake.

But Columbia University Jewish history professor Elisheva Carlebach says anyone using Dumpsters or burying chametz at sea is not following religious law, which requires fermented grain products be consumed, given away, or burnt.

“It’s completely possible that such a thing happened and that there may be some individuals who are on their own dumping stuff in the lake, which they shouldn’t, but it has got nothing to do with the Jewish tradition and nothing to do with the Jewish community,” she said. “That is not the proper way to dispose of chametz.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 10:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

hb from park slope says:
People are probably confusing the ritual of throwing bread into the waters at tashlich, throwing away sins, symbolically, at the time of Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur.
March 19, 2013, 10:05 am
Moshe Dovid Niederman from Williamsburg says:
This so called alliance should retract their statement, it will foster antisemitism, and hatred towards the Jewish communities, this is a modern day blood libel
March 19, 2013, 12:05 pm
Dying Swan from Prospect Park says:
Whether it be Christians, Muslims, Taoists, Buddhists, animists, atheists, agnostics, or Jews ignorant of their own traditions dumping bread into the lake - Please Stop, you are making me sick. Also you could maybe bring some Tums?
March 19, 2013, 1:24 pm
Yaakov Doe from Prospect Park West says:
I don't know who's dumping bread in the lake but it's not the Jews. Some people dump cooked grains of somekind near street trees, perhaps its the same people.
March 19, 2013, 2:56 pm
Moishe from Flsatbush says:
I've been a Jew all my life and lived near Prospect Park for a great many years and have never before heard of such a practice or problem. Could this be the Jewisjh people being blamed for what some other group or individual is doing?
March 19, 2013, 3 pm
Moishe from Flsatbush says:
Report is mistaken. It's not a Jewish custom
March 19, 2013, 3:01 pm
Gina from Prospect Heights says:
This is a modern day BLODD LIBEL, wait till tomorrow some wasp newspaper in the south will report this as a Jewish practice
March 19, 2013, 3:09 pm
Ken from Greenpoint says:
i think this reporter should be fired for providing news it doesn't exist...
March 19, 2013, 4:22 pm
ty from pps says:
Yes... blood libel. Yes, accusing Jews of murdering children to use their blood to make Matzo or for other religious customs... yes, that's the same as suggesting Jews are feeding leftover bread to ducks.

Get a grip.
March 19, 2013, 5:06 pm
jay from nyc says:
THIS, of ALL things is what the prospect park alliance is worried about???!!!
With everything else that goes on and is wrong with the park, this is what they are focusing on???!!!??
Did they send out people to interview the alleged Jews who were doing this and catch them in the act to actually establish that its Jews who are doing this? Where are they getting this from?
If they are worried about animals being fed, how about the worry about all the rats that get fed because trash is left all over the park in stinking piles all day in the summer?
How about they actually figure out a way to enforce the no smoking law in the park, and I don't just mean tobacco, I also mean the stupid idiot loser bozo sorry excuse for an alleged human pot smokers who seem to be oblivious that its not legal to smoke pot in a public park, and around children no less?
How about they worry about the cars that drive into the park when they are not supposed to and on roads they are not supposed to and in directions they are not supposed to?
It seems to me that the prospect park alliance really is lost and clueless.
March 19, 2013, 7:31 pm
Devora from Boro Park says:
I'm not sure I understand the hoopla. The park doesn't want us to throw bread in, that's perfectly understandable. I also see why they would think it's a custom - I'm sure many of us come with our leftover bread to feed the ducks before Pesach.The only thing they got wrong is that it's an official custom. I don't think we're being accused falsely or unjustly and I think the press release was not worded not nicely at all!
March 19, 2013, 7:33 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
as much as an idiot i think you rise to the occasion of - to call this a blood libel is calling charlie tuna a moser
March 19, 2013, 8:02 pm
o3 from bk says:
save the histronics, and bread for something appropriate.
March 20, 2013, 6:36 am
Sloper from Park Slope says:
Can everyone just stop dropping large amounts of bread in all parts of the park. It's surely contributes to the booming rat population which triggered the park to put out poison which kills rats and squirrels.

I've seen lots of people dumping strangely large amounts of bread by the lake over the years, and many of them were obviously jewish. I have no idea if it was part of some ritual. There are also many people who feed the squirrels (and rats) along PPW every day, bringing old bagels and a variety of other bread products, all of it unhealthy for any of the animals that eat it.
March 20, 2013, 12:57 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
what does 'obviously jewish' mean - you mean looked colortred, Arab, maybe Eyetalian- or do you mean obviosylay a,ss hole like you -
March 20, 2013, 8:48 pm
ty from pps says:
I was wondering who would react to the "obviously jewish" comment... seriously, old time?

If this was Cleveland "obviously jewish" would probably lack meaning other than a slur of some sort... but this is effing Brooklyn, man.

Umm... Black coats, white shirts, peyos, fur hats, kippas, tallit tassles, women with wigs and long skirts... there are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Brooklyn that take great effort to be "obviously Jewish"

Like I said above, Get a grip!
March 20, 2013, 11:13 pm
Jena says:
Ken, obviously it exist. Open your eyes. Oh wait, you already have your eyes open since you read this article.
March 21, 2013, 1:59 pm
Michael from Israel says:
I know I'm quite distant from the bird problem, but I think this is what everyone meant:

Please note that during the time of Passover, many people may be concerned about wasting left over bread and other leavened goods.

It may be tempting to scatter this in the parks and feed the wildlife, and while this may seem like a noble gesture, it should not be done in parks within the city limits due to the fine ecological balance.

Our tradition is to burn, give away or sell the leavened products that are left over but you should consult with a rabbi or community leader on the best way to do this if you are concerned about tradition which has many ethical facets.

The park system is considering setting up bread collection receptacles that will be regulated or transported to areas that will benefit wildlife where feed is lacking.

We live on a beautiful planet with beautiful people and we are making every effort to find a harmonious balance. :-)
April 14, 2014, 1:13 am
Jay from Far Rockaway says:
This is not Israel this is America they should respect ny law.
Sept. 30, 2018, 2:30 pm

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