Why Some Jews “Sell” Their Pets for Passover

  • Jews who observe Passover abstain from eating leavened foods such as bread, cereal, and pasta.
  • Some go even further and temporarily sell their domestic animals that eat leavened grains.
  • The practice of selling chametz dates back to the 17th century and has become widespread in recent times.
  • Many people choose to switch their pets’ diet to a kosher-certified diet for Passover, pawn their pet for the week, or give them a raw, grain-free diet.
  • Star-K provides a list of grain-free, kosher pet foods for Passover, along with advice on slowly transitioning pets to the new diet.

Forgoing leavened foods like bread, cereal, and pasta is an annual tradition for Jews who celebrate Passover, but some holiday observers take it a step further and temporarily sell their pets that eat leavened grains.

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrating the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and begins on Wednesday evening. For a week, observers of the holiday refrain from eating sourdough or chametz, and strict observers do not even keep it in the house. For some, this means koshering their pets’ food for Passover, others temporarily sell their pets to a gentile and then buy them back at the end of the holiday.

“The number of pets sold with the chametz is definitely increasing, we can see that with the chametz Sales at Chabad.org,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson news week.

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Corgi Charlie Chan wore his kippah as dog and owner Jolyn Yamada of Newport Beach, California, attended the menorah ceremony at Fashion Island in Newport Beach on December 12, 2017. Some observers of the Passover festival, which begins Wednesday evening, are temporarily selling their pets that eat leavened grains.
Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register/Getty

Dealing with chametz during Passover is hotly debated. Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman resigned from her party last year after criticizing the lifting of a hospital ban on chametz, a move that cost Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his coalition government. With Netanyahu back in power, the Knesset recently passed legislation banning hospitalizing chametz during Passover, but it is being challenged in court.

In the 17th century, according to Jewish law, Jews began selling the leavened objects to a non-Jewish person. After the Passover, the Jew then bought back the leavened products. Chabad.org, the flagship website of the Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic, has offered online forms for Jews celebrating Passover to authorize a rabbi to sell their chametz to a non-Jew on their behalf. Chabad expects more than 100,000 people to participate in chametz sales this year.

Seligson explained that people only need to sell their pets if their pet food is chametz. If the pet has to be sold, the owners arrange for a Gentile to feed their pet during Passover.

Why do people sell their pets?

Lawrence H. Schiffman, professor of Jewish Studies at New York University, narrates news week that the sale of chametz arose when Jews wanted to observe the Passover rules in certain businesses, such as bakeries.

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Dog toys at a benefit event in Beverly Hills, California.
Chris Weeks/Getty

“It is normal for Jews who are strict observers to take whatever leaven they have and sell the leaven, often through synagogues, to a gentile so that the gentile becomes the rightful owner,” Schiffman said.

What started as a practice for businesses quickly spread to personal use, such as B. their own groceries, their valuable alcohol collection or in some cases their pets. This led to partnerships between rabbis and non-Jews, some of which lasted for years.

For decades, the late John Brown was the gentile with whom New York rabbis orchestrated chametz sales deals. From 1977 to 2019, Brown met with rabbis at the Young Israel of Riverdale at 10 a.m. before Passover, the last time Jews would be allowed to have chametz, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). Over the years, he also took on people’s pets because their owners were not allowed to feed them during Passover.

“A few years ago we started telling Mr. Brown that you will own a certain number of dogs and cats,” Rabbi Shmuel Hain of Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale/Yonkers told JTA. “[He] had a good time when it came to some of the sillier, some of the less risky subjects.”

How common is it to sell your pet?

Seligson tells news week It is far more common for people to change their pet’s diet than to sell their pet during Passover.

The New York Post reported several pet owners feeding their pets what they eat during Passover.

Rebecca Singer Walker told that post that her Yorkie Miles eats what she eats.

“I’ll cook beef or chicken or fish,” Walker said.

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Men eat with a dog in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Subodh Agnihotri/Getty

Star-K, a kosher certification agency, is educating Jews by publishing a list of pet foods owners can feed their pets during Passover. The foods are wheat and rice free, making them kosher for the holidays, but some pet owners start introducing their pet to the food months before Passover to give their pet a chance to adjust to the dietary change.

A recent list published by Star-K included grain-free foods for dogs and cats from brands such as Blue, Purina, Kirkland and Wellness Core. The list suggested millet, sorghum, various nuts and seeds, or pure alfalfa pellets for birds. The list also included suggestions for fish, gerbils, and reptiles.

Others choose to take their pet on board for the week post items, or instead of buying new pet food to use for just one week, they choose to feed pets such as cats and dogs raw foods such as beef, fish, or chicken during Passover.

When owners change their pets’ food, Star-K told them to slowly wean their pet off their regular diet. The website suggested mixing the regular diet with the new diet for a week or two before fully switching to the Passover-friendly diet.

https://www.newsweek.com/why-some-jewish-people-sell-their-pets-passover-1792832 Why Some Jews “Sell” Their Pets for Passover

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