Passover In Paradise
Not far from where the waves crash against the sandy shore of a pristine beach along the Pacific Ocean, Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg and his wife, Ruthie, will join 120 travelers from all over the world for an al fresco Passover seder in Costa Rica.
This year marks the seventh or eighth time the Goldbergs will be observing the holiday at the all-inclusive four-star resort, made kosher for Passover and strictly supervised during the holiday.
Open-air dining lends itself nicely to a beautiful and unique setting for the seders. As an added bonus, because this Central America country is close to the equator, an early sunset means the festive meals will start approximately two hours earlier than they will in Michigan.
“It’s the most beautiful thing to sit down to a seder and not be exhausted from all the preparations that go into making a seder and getting ready for Passover,” says Goldberg, who serves as the scholar-in-residence with Costa Rica Kosher Adventures, the travel company organizing the holiday getaway. He also is founder and director of Kids Kicking Cancer and rabbi emeritus of Young Israel of Southfield.
Goldberg’s roles during Passover include leading daily services and the seders (for those who choose to participate as a group as opposed to having a self-led one) as well as lecturing. His talks, he says, are meant to be inspiring, motivational seminars that include meditative techniques and ways to achieve emotional freedom.
Scores of resorts and hotels around the world kosher their kitchens during Passover, allowing travelers the freedom to escape the intense preparation of getting their homes ready for Passover and, of course, preparing eight days of Passover meals.
Miami, San Diego, Naples, Las Vegas and destinations all over the East Coast are just a handful of domestic destinations offering Passover travel packages. International locations include Greece, Italy, Mexico, the Caribbean and Israel, just to name a few.
On a national and international level, kosher travel is big business. TotallyJewishTravel.com is the largest Jewish travel website with 5,000 users a day, according to the site’s co-founder and co-owner Raphi Bloom. There are more than 130 kosher-for-Passover hotels around the world currently advertising there.
“Pesach is busier [than kosher travel the rest of the year] because often three generations go away, so you have whole family groupings traveling together,” he says.
“Resorts compete with each other for the best speakers, scholars-in-residence and entertainers, such as the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom or comedian Elon Gold. More and more new companies are starting to run hotels for Pesach and many sold out in early March or are close to being sold out now.”
A New Tradition
Last year, for the first time, Barbara and Dean Pichette found themselves without anyone in town for Passover. Their children were unable to travel so instead of being alone, the Southfield couple decided to spend the holiday in Costa Rica.
“It was paradise,” Barbara Pichette says. “We had an amazing seder outside where we could hear the ocean and howler monkeys. How often do you have a seder with howler monkeys?”
This year, the Pichettes will host their children and grandchildren. “I’m becoming everyone’s personal Costa Rica,” jokes Pichette, who will house at least five family members for the duration of Passover.
David and Doris Schey’s children were also living out of town and unable to spend the holiday together. Doris happened to see an advertisement for Passover at a hotel just outside of San Diego in Community Links, a local advertising guide geared toward the Orthodox community.
The ad caught their attention because the resort was close to their daughter, so the Huntington Woods couple booked what would be their first Passover getaway. The following year, they went to a kosher hotel in northern Italy. This year, they will spend Pesach at a kosher resort in Connecticut.
“Our kids are grown, and it’s a lot, changing over your home,” David Schey says. “There are wonderful speakers and a lot of activities during the week. In California, they even converted the locks to keys so we didn’t have to use an electronic card. They really made it easy for us.”
Despite the ease of observing Passover away, Schey says the second Passover ends, the hotels become like Cinderella at midnight and are no longer kosher.
Jennifer Lovy Contributing Writer