May 21, 2024
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A Pesach Program in Hawaii

Spending Pesach in the tropical paradise of Hawaii was one of the most restful vacations my family has ever had. Rabbi Itchel and Rebbetzin Perel Krasnjansky, of Chabad of Honolulu, hosted their guests at the luxurious Trump International Hotel in beautiful Waikiki.

Located just steps away from the famous beach, approximately 200 guests were treated to lavish buffets, gourmet plated meals on Yom Tov, family hospitality and evening entertainment. Delightfully consistent weather had highs in the low 80s and lows in the 70s, lacking the humidity that often plagues the east coast. The beautiful beaches featured surfing, but waves were mild enough for even the youngest children to play in the water safely. The hotel provided tote bags with beach towels and water for all heading out to the beach.

Rabbi and Rebbetzin Krasnjansky made sure each guest was treated like family. They greeted each table at every meal and were always available to provide sightseeing and touring suggestions and answer any questions. Each guest was presented with the traditional Hawaiian lei upon arrival and each family was given a souvenir Hawaiian tote bag that included a beach towel, sunscreen, chocolates, sparkling water, hand sanitizer and even a kit for bedikat chametz. Refrigerators in each room could be stocked with beverages and snacks, but the 24-hour tea room had everything one could possibly wish. My personal favorites were the waters lightly flavored with fresh fruits, mint or cucumber. The fresh fruits were extremely flavorful, and the selections of cakes, nuts and candies provided something for every taste. A large selection of “portable” foods were available at breakfast for those wishing to pack lunches for full-day trips.

Historic sites and action-packed activities were only short taxi rides away. Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial were on many must-see lists for first-time island visitors to learn about one of the most
pivotal moments in U.S. history: the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II. We spent an afternoon at Iolani Palace, the home of Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. The U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii was located directly across the street from the hotel, but is closed for renovations until next year.

Another must-see on our bucket list was snorkeling on the coral reefs located around the island of Oahu. We had the opportunity to visit two diverse and equally stunning locations featuring different habitats. The first involved a catamaran ride to an off-shore reef where sea turtles and tropical fish feed. The gentle, giant turtles were all around us, often grouped in multitudes. Following a leisurely swim, the catamaran sail provided a new perspective of the Honolulu/Waikiki area before we came back to shore. Our second trip was an afternoon spent at the incredibly scenic Hanauma Bay State Park, where the coral reefs were just steps away from the shore with many varieties of tropical fish. Records show that Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s often stayed at the bay for entertainment and fishing. After our palace tour, we felt right at home. Hanauma Bay is now limited to only 1000 guests per day to lessen the impact on this beautiful natural resource. We were lucky to be able to get tickets.

Also on our list was an afternoon hike to the famous Diamondhead Crater, part of the state park system. The trail to the summit of Diamondhead, known as Lē‘ahi in Hawaiian) was built in 1908 as part of Oahu’s coastal defense system. The 0.8-mile hike from trailhead to the summit is considered steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor. The scenic views are magnificent and make the climb well worth the effort. We saw families with young children who were able to make the hike, so I would not discount the opportunity.

Our last trip included a visit to Coral Crater Adventure Park, west of Honolulu. We went off-road on ATVs and took the zip-line canopy tour. For the even more adventurous, there is an activity tower that features a climbing wall, high swings, freefall and aerial challenge course. For the less fearless, there is a petting zoo with goats, sheep and chickens; display of natural flora and fauna; and giant tortoises (and their baby offspring).

Families with rental cars could also visit the Dole Pineapple Plantation, the North Shore beaches and waterfalls and many other locations. The Honolulu Zoo, famous surfing spots and world-class shopping are all located within walking distance of the hotel.

Chazzan Yanky Lemmer of Lincoln Square synagogue was on hand to lead services and provide entertainment. One evening, he hosted a karaoke contest with the winner receiving a recording session as the grand prize. On another evening he held a concert featuring an eclectic mix of music that included the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Jewish and traditional tunes. Opening for Chazzan Lemmer was a traditional Hawaiian musician who entertained the group following an incredible steak dinner with a divine imitation seafood appetizer.

Heather Horowitz of New York City joined the group with her husband and four children and was thrilled with her first Pesach program. “Pesach in Hawaii was a beautiful program. With the backdrop of Waikiki Beach, the program was filled with good food and great people in a warm and family-friendly environment. It was truly Pesach in paradise.”

The Krasjnansky family runs the Chabad of Honolulu and can assist you with your visit throughout the year. If we are not all in Jerusalem next Pesach, a Hawaiian Pesach is highly recommended.

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