Hiddush to Jerusalem Rabbinate:
No legal prohibition against displaying Christmas trees!
Following a letter sent by the Jerusalem Rabbinate to the city's hotels, which claimed it inappropriate to display Christmas trees in hotels and inappropriate to permit New Year's parties, Hiddush promptly wrote to the Ministry of Religious Services.
Uri Regev 22/12/2016 12:59
From the Times of Israel:
The Jerusalem rabbinate has called on hotels in the city not to erect Christmas trees or host New Year’s Eve parties, according to a letter that emerged Tuesday.
The letter, addressed to hotel managers and signed by the two chief rabbis of Jerusalem, stated: “As the secular year ends we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha [Jewish law] and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel.
“It is also appropriate to avoid hosting parties to mark the end of the secular year. We wish to remind you that our new year occurs on the first of [the Hebrew month of] Tishrei, in an atmosphere of holiness, with the happiness of mitzva.”
Following this letter sent by the Jerusalem Rabbinate, which claimed it inappropriate to display Christmas trees in hotels and inappropriate to permit New Year's parties, we at Hiddush promptly wrote to the director and legal adviser of the Ministry of Religious Services.
In our letter, we wrote that the Rabbinate's letter is "very serious. The Chief Rabbis of Jerusalem have taken the law into their own hands, turning to the hotels with demands that are entirely unmoored from the law and in direct contravention of the Chief Rabbinate's regulations, with implied threats against those who violate this religious prohibition."
Hiddush's letter demanded that the Ministry of Religious Services immediately demand that the Jerusalem Rabbinate and the Chief Rabbinate issue an explicit clarification that there is no legal prohibition against hotels displaying Christmas trees and permitting Christmas and New Year's holiday parties, and that such actions will not impact any hotel's eligibility for kashrut certification from the Chief Rabbinate.
The Chief Rabbinate had been in violation of the Kosher Fraud Law for many years, which states that that “the kashrut inspector should only consider standards of kashrut alone in certifying an establishment as kosher.”
Up until two years ago, the Chief Rabbinate would explicitly threaten to withdraw the kashrut certification of any hotel in Israel that displayed any Christian holiday symbols during the Christmas and New Year's season. Upon Hiddush's legal appeal, these demands were removed by the Chief Rabbinate. Nevertheless local rabbinates continue to ignore the newly issued kashrut regulations, and continue to illegally enforce their ban of Christian holiday decorations.
The Chief Rabbinate had been in violation of the Kosher Fraud Law for many years, which states that that “the kashrut inspector should only consider standards of kashrut alone in certifying an establishment as kosher.” According to a Supreme Court ruling, basing an establishment’s kosher certification upon considerations such as Sabbath observance or modesty was in contravention of the law.
Late last month, in advance of the end-of-year holiday season, Hiddush sent a letter to the Directors of the Israel Hotel Association and the Jerusalem Hotel Association, reminding them that the Chief Rabbinate's illegal prohibition against Christmas trees had been rescinded; and offering legal assistance to hotels that continue to be threatened and coerced by their local Rabbinates in this regard.