The local rabbinate in Haifa issued a warning last week to hotels and event halls in the city that they risk losing their kashrut supervision if they allow New Year’s Eve celebrations to take place in their establishments.

“Following up from our previous notice, we have clearly stated that New Year’s celebrations must not be held at the end of the civil calendar,” the letter from the Haifa Rabbinate read.

“It will not be possible to continue our supervision for anyone who infringes our instruction,” the letter concluded, adding that “good blessing” would come upon all who adhere to the directive.

Despite the letter however, director of the Haifa Rabbinate Rabbi Avraham Weizman told Channel 2 News on Sunday that no business that does host such a party would have their kashrut certification canceled.

Secular activists and politicians reacted angrily towards the letter, and denounced the directive.

Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said that the notice was “scandalous extortion of business owners who are already bent under the burden of payments to the rabbinate.”

“Once again the world of intrigue, financial extortion, and religious coercion has been exposed, which is controlled by the extensive monopoly known as the ‘Chief Rabbinate,’” he fumed.

In its response, the Chief Rabbinate said if a situation arises in which one of its kashrut supervisors would be unable to be present at an establishment with a kashrut certificate, that business cannot be certified.

The statement said that according to Jewish law, “it is forbidden for a Jew to be present in a place where ‘idol worship’ is being conducted,” such as the rituals of other religions.

“New Year’s parties are not just folkish, they create a prohibition [not to be present at such events],” the chief rabbinate said, and added that it would issue a directive this week outlining what is and is not considered prohibited according to Jewish law for such events.

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