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April 11, 2006

Jews at the zoo, overfeeding monkeys

No, they're not being fattened up for seder dinner.

Here's why New York monkeys love Passover:

Security has been tight this week at the Central Park Zoo, with ticket takers, staff, and guards on the lookout for suspicious packages of cookies, pretzels, hot-dog buns, and pound cake. Observant Jews have till Wednesday to clear their houses of hametz (leavened products) before Passover, and every year many of them take their castoffs to the zoo. Baffled zoo staff note that the snow monkeys are the main beneficiaries of the pre-holiday pig-out, apparently because the polar bear’s glass wall is too high and the sea lions would only be interested if offered gefilte fish. “If a big group comes in carrying bags, admission is going to notice,” says zoo spokesperson Kate McIntyre. [New York Magazine]

Hat tips to Thad and Ezra.


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This really makes no sense. The lede which you pasted says they're getting rid of leavened products that they can't use. But then later in the article:

Kapetanakos says the main things thrown by the big crowds then are bananas and matzo, that Passover staple.

It sounds like it's just that Orthodox Jews go to the zoo over Passover when the kids aren't in school, and make a nuisance of themselves.

Also: Aren't there any food banks in New York?

I wondered about the banana and matzoh angle, too. Obviously, you're allowed to have matzohs in your house before Passover and I've never heard of any ritual proscription for bananas during that time. Come to think of it, our family's traditional Passover desert is a matzoh banana sponge cake.

Aren't you supposed to get rid of everything grainy from last year - including last year's matza - and replace it with fresh grain, including new matza?

That's a good point, coturnix. I'd forgotten about the housecleaning aspect. Does that rule apply to bananas?

Also, what's wrong with giving your food to people? Why does it have to be monkeys?

Neil, I think the issue might be half-opened packages or food that's gone somewhat stale.

Frankly, I can understand the impulse even though I'd never once thought of the zoo angle.

Wasting food is bad, but it's not really in condition to give as tzedakah. Feed the animals with them?

A similar phenomenon might also explain the piles of porn mags left in the primate house just before Lent.

Rereading the article, the bananas and matza are what folks throw when visiting the zoo during Pesach, not before...

I would just like to remind everyone that this is not a Jews-only thing. People of all races and cultures can overfeed zoo animals due to religious holidays.

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