The Fifth Passover Seder Question: Where to This Year?

March 25, 2013 10:48 am 0 comments

Originally published by Jewish Travel the new online travel magazine

The Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Hawaii. Photo: Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa.

In the 21st century, the good news for Jewish tradition is that the multi-generational Passover seder still appears to be as much in vogue as ever. Only it is as likely to take place in a hotel or a resort as it is in a patriarch’s home. And these specialized Passover destinations are using every lure in the book (although not the Hagaddah) to attract holiday-goers: from tropical cruises to eco-tourism, and gourmet glatt kosher food to exotic adventures in the Far East.

“For many observant Jews, the attraction of leaving home is two-fold: getting away from the drudgery of Pesach cleaning, as well as traveling to a fun, friendly place where food, intellectual stimulation and even physical activity are plentiful and appealing,” says Raphi Bloom, founder and CEO of totallyjewishtravel.com (TJT), a popular U.S.-based website with headquarters in the UK, and publisher of Jewish.Travel (JT), which has stringers in Israel as well. “The week of Passover is the now the busiest time of year for Jews to emulate our ancestors and pack up for a trip.”

Bloom has been tracking trends in Passover travel ever since launching his site back in 2001 (as the successor to Jewishroutes.com, founded in 1999). This year, more than 120 hotels are advertising on TJT and JT, representing destinations located around the world.

Moreover, according to Bloom, more than 90 Passover tour operators advertised with TJT this year. (For a list of breakdown by continent, see www.TotallyJewishTravel.com.)

“What we have found interesting is the expansion of French Pesach operators,” he says. “Many of those who have traditionally marketed themselves to the native French market—there are some 60 French Pesach operators—have become more interested in the English-speaking Jewish market. With the help of ‘Google translate,’ the companies advertising with TJT.are now reaching new audiences!”

Economically, this translates also into big business. “We have been witnessing consistent growth in Passover travel every year,” adds Bloom. “Although there is kosher travel all year-round, there are tour operators who do virtually all of their business at Pesach.”

Although no one officially tracks Passover travel numbers, Bloom estimates that approximately 125,000 Jews book hotel and resort rooms for the holiday week. The largest geographical concentrations of hotels are in the U.S., Israel and southern Europe (Italy, the French Riviera, Spain and Greece).

“Tour operators keep coming up with different destinations to keep trips interesting,” Bloom says. “In Italy, last year’s Sardinia has made way for this year’s Florence.”

According to Bloom, among the destinations that have resurfaced are South Africa and Hawaii, the latter in a big way: “Last year, the seder was conducted by Chabad in a local synagogue; now it is a full-scale program in-house at the Sheraton Maui.”

Yet another venue has undergone a reincarnation, thanks to the Internet.

“Eastbourne, in England, has traditionally only been marketed in the UK Jewish press,” says Bloom. “This year, in contrast, they advertised with TJT—and got a huge response from the USA.”

Price is another factor influencing choice of destination.

“In Europe,” Bloom notes, “Crete and the Greek islands have become very popular. They are less expensive than the EU countries, Marbella, or the UK.”

In the Western Hemisphere, Puerto Rico had long been a leading offshore Passover destination for American Jews; that mantle has now shifted to Mexico—in luxurious resorts on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The annual Passover cruise in warm waters under the kashrut supervision of Conservative rabbis (most resorts feature Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox hashgaha) often varies its ports of call in the Caribbean and Latin America, to attract repeat customers.

Bloom has detected new trends in the continental U.S. as well. “Florida, Arizona and warm-weather destinations—especially this year, when Pesach falls so early in the spring—are well-established destinations that still have not lost their appeal,” he observes. “However, to appeal to the many Jews in the Northeast who do not wish to travel far, more East Coast resort—in Connecticut and Maryland—are being added to the traditional upstate New York destinations.”

“On the other hand,” he notes, “an early Pesach can also attract winter sports enthusiasts: Passover resorts in the Rockies and the Alps are offering skiing holidays.”

“Jews in southern California who want to stay close to home also have new options in Las Vegas and Palm Springs,” he adds. “These resorts are especially convenient for Los Angelenos who find it too difficult to take the whole week off work; the family will spend the week at the resort, while the breadwinner shuttles back and forth for the holiday and Sabbath segments.” The proximity of Shabbat to the Passover seder nights in 5733 makes the short commute even easier this March.

Even not having to fork out for airfare to distant destinations, however, does not mean that Pesach getaways come cheap. Quite the contrary.

“Most resorts converting to ‘kosher for Passover’ are upscale to begin with,” says Lynda Clare, of Presidential Kosher Holidays, a veteran operator of Pesach retreats. “We are proud to feature, for example, two Fairmont resorts—on the Riviera Maya, and in Scottsdale, Arizona—both boasting welcoming climates, interesting side trips, and fun recreational pursuits. And prices are all-inclusive, covering meals, snacks, and such on-site activities as spiritual and educational enrichment programs.”

“We host families of only two, up to 40, 50 and even 60 family members,” she says. “We get lots of multi-generational families: grandparents, parents and grandchildren—even great-grandchildren. Private seder rooms can be arranged for large families.”

With so many people—and up to four generations—involved, there is no longer the homogeneity that once characterized the early days of vacationing families observing Passover at hotels.

“Our guests run the gamut of religious observance,” Clare reports. “Not everyone in the family may be observant, but they enjoy celebrating together.”

Bloom has observed the same phenomenon. “It is not unusual to have a case where the parents are not observant but one of the children is newly religious (ba’al teshuvah); he or she is the catalyst for everyone having a kosher Passover.”

Sometimes, a second generation might split off.

The Turnberry Isle Resort, Miami. Photo: Turnberry Isle Resort, Miami.

“A recent development we have noticed is an increase in ‘empty nest’ couples,” says Clare. “Yet occasionally smaller family components do not make for diminished Passover crowds: our attendance in Arizona has grown from 250 to 600 in the last five years.”

One big change both Clare and Bloom have noticed is that the Internet, spearheaded by sites like TJT, has led to greater geographical diversity.

“Increasingly, family reunions are becoming more and more global,” Clare observes.

“Moreover, we have seen lasting friendships formed among families coming from different parts of the globe; they coming together again and again to celebrate Pesach.

“This is not our core business, Clare smiles, “but once in a while a romance develops.”

The Holy Land: Back on the Passover Map

“Israel is buzzing this year,” says TJT’s Raphi Bloom. “Even while the Pesah market in the US and Europe has picked up, Eretz Yisrael is as busy as ever.”

Indeed, after years of slumping Jewish tourism because of fears of terrorist violence, Israel is once again in the vacation picture, especially during the pilgrimage holidays of Passover and Sukkot.

One of the leading Pesah program organizers in Israel is Joey Freudmann, a veteran of with more than 25 year’s experience operating in the Holy Land.

“Together with Lenny Davidman of LD events, my company, Ophir Tours, offers some of the most exclusive programs in Israel,“ Freudmann says. “For example, 2013 is our 19th year at the Dead Sea—this spring at the Daniel Hotel & Spa, where we host the only 5-star, English-speaking Pesach program at the Dead Sea.”

“One of the challenges of operating at the Dead Sea,” Freudmann notes, “is that there is very little to do outside of the resort, without traveling a far distance away. The fact that we continue to do well here is a testament to the quality of our educational and enrichment programs.”

“Most of our guests are drawn from the English-speaking Jewish community in Israel,” he adds. “However, they are increasingly being joined by family members from abroad, forming some very large groups.”

As usual, Freudmann and Davidman are running three programs this year: at the Sharon Hotel at Herzliya Pituah beach, and at the Crowne Plaza Tel Aviv, in the heart of the action along the Big Orange’s bustling boardwalk.

“All of our programs sell out each year,” says Freudmann proudly. Herzliya has a lovely beach that is quite popular—although, this year, with Pesah falling March rather than April, the warmer climate at the Dead Sea should be a major draw.”

If there is any lament Freudmann has, it is with regards to the Pesah airfares charged by all the airlines flying to Israel for the holiday—and not just El Al. “Israel is going to price itself out the market,” he warns. “Clients who used to think nothing about flying a family of 20 or 30 are now reassessing: paying the fares for all these passengers can practically double the cost of the trip!”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    Cycling the Desert: New Israel Bike Trail Connects Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat

    As the popularity of cycling continues to increase across the world, Israel is working to develop cycling trails that make the country’s spectacular desert accessible to cyclists. The southern segment of the Israel Bike Trail was inaugurated on Feb. 24 and offers for the first time a unique, uninterrupted 8-day cycling experience after six years of planning and development. The southern section of the Israel Bike Trail stretches over 300 kilometers in length and is divided into eight segments for mountain biking, [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    Forthcoming Major Action Movies Inspired by Jewish Comic Artist Jack Kirby

    JNS.org – With the recent Oscars in the rearview mirror, Hollywood’s attention now shifts to the rest of this year’s big-screen lineup. Two of the major action films coming up in 2015—Avengers: Age of Ultron, which hits theaters in May, and the third film in the Fantastic Four series, slated for an August release—have Jewish roots that the average moviegoer might be unaware of. As it turns out, it took a tough Jewish kid from New York City’s Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    When Torah Teaches Life and Life Teaches Torah (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – Rabbi Gordon Tucker spent the first 20 years of his career teaching at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and the next 20 years as the rabbi of Temple Israel Center in White Plains, N.Y. I confess that when I heard about the order of those events, I thought that Tucker’s move from academia to the pulpit was strange. Firstly, I could not imagine anyone filling the place of my friend, Arnold Turetsky, who was such a talented [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    Oscars 2015: Reflecting on Love at First Sight

    JNS.org – I’m in love, and have been for a long time. It’s a relationship filled with laughter, tears, intrigue, and surprise. It was love at first sight, back when I was a little girl—with an extra-terrestrial that longed to go home. From then on, that love has never wavered, and isn’t reserved for one, but for oh so many—Ferris Bueller, Annie Hall, Tootsie, Harry and Sally, Marty McFly, Atticus Finch, Danny Zuko, Yentl, that little dog Toto, Mrs. Doubtfire, [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    Examining America’s First Foray into the Middle East (REVIEW)

    At the turn of the 21st century through today, American involvement in Middle Eastern politics runs through the Central Intelligence Agency. In America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, historian Hugh Wilford shows this has always been the case. Wilford methodically traces the lives and work of the agency’s three most prominent officers in the Middle East: Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt was the grandson of president Theodore Roosevelt, and the first head of [...]

    Read more →
  • Relationships US & Canada Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Seniors at Los Angeles Jewish Home Give Witty Dating Advice Ahead of Valentine’s Day (VIDEO)

    Residents of the Los Angeles Jewish Home give dating advice to a young Jewish man in a comedic video posted Monday on YouTube just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jonathan, an associate at the Jewish home, quizzes the senior citizens on an array of topics including having sex on the first date, kissing a girl, who should pay for dinner and whether online dating is a good idea. When the 28-year-old asks a male resident named Lee about his experiences [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish History Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Kutsher’s Documentary an Amazing, and Tragic, Look at the Past (REVIEW)

    Anyone who spent time in the Jewish Catskills hotels – especially those like me, who returned for decades – must see the new documentary,”Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort.” Not only will the film transport you back to the glory days of your youth and thousands of memories, but it will also make you long for a world that is now lost forever. I returned to Kutsher’s one last time in the summer of 2009, but by then, the [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Jewish Identity Lifestyle Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    Riding the Wave of Change in Part-Time Jewish Education

    JNS.org – Amid the numerous studies and analyses regarding Jewish American life, a simple fact remains: part-time Jewish education is the most popular vehicle for Jewish education in North America. Whenever and wherever parents choose Jewish education for their children, we have a communal responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to deliver dynamic, effective learning experiences. The only way we can do this is by creating space for conversations and knowledge-sharing around innovative new education models. That also [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.