In a strange twist, Prospect park has issued a communal memo urging the Jewish community not to dump Chametz (leavened bread) into the park’s lake. They explain that the dumping of bread actually causes damage to the fowls in the lake. “For many years people have brought chametz to Prospect Park to throw into the lake to feed the waterfowl,” the memo explains. “While this is done with the best of intentions, feeding the waterfowl can be very harmful to them.”
The response from Jewish communal leaders has been largely one of confusion. The executive director of the Williamsburg-based United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment organization, Gary Schlesinger, explained that “For Passover nobody drops the chametz into the lake. That is totally untrue."
Some contend that the park has mistaken the ritual of destroying Chametz with ritual of throwing pieces of bread to fulfill the custom of Tashlich, a ritual performed during the High Holidays. Yet, it’s hard to understand how the park could possibly mistake a ritual that takes place during the spring with one that occurs during the fall. The park denies the mistake saying, “We know about the religious ceremony right before Yom Kippur. That’s not the issue. 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.”
Though there is no precedence in Jewish law for throwing Chametz in water, as it’s supposed to be burned, it seems unclear why the Park would lie about something like this. We will have to wait to see how this turns out, but hopefully both sides can clear up any confusion.