Haifa to go ahead with New Year’s celebrations despite threats by party pooper

City municipality quick to recall letter from rabbi that warns hotels and halls not to display non-Jewish symbols during celebrations

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A woman celebrates the New Year in Israel, January 1, 2012. (photo credit: Dima Vazinovich/Flash90)
A woman celebrates the New Year in Israel, January 1, 2012. (photo credit: Dima Vazinovich/Flash90)

Haifa’s city council said it had recalled and revoked a letter from a city rabbi that warned function halls hosting New Year’s Eve celebrations to ensure that no non-Jewish symbols be put on display.

Mayor Yona Yahav told Israel Radio on Sunday that the letter, threatening to remove the kosher certification from hotels and halls that did not abide by the warning, had been sent by an over-enthusiastic rabbi.

The letter, signed by “Rabbi Y. Hess” of the city’s rabbinical council, was sent to hotels and halls in the city and was apparently an emendation of an earlier edict prohibiting New Year’s Eve parties altogether.

“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter said.

In Israel, like many European countries, New Year’s Eve is known as “Sylvester” and though not officially marked by the state, is still celebrated by many around the country.

The recalled missive ended with an ominous threat that any place that does not abide bide the letter’s instructions will lose its kosher permit. Without the permit halls cannot host kosher events, which make up a very significant part of their business.

Yahav said the letters had been recalled and there would be no repercussions for halls that host New Year’s parties.

For the past several years Haifa has been holding a December festival to jointly celebrate the holidays of the three major religions: Hanukkah, Ramadan and Christmas.

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