Passover holiday vacation options have grown exponentially over the years with diverse programs springing up in venues all over the United States and the world. Many exist for a year or two and then either disappear or move on to a different place. Select programs have become “historic” and have repeated year after year in the same location, with some even operating for many decades.
One Passover program that has stood out as the iconic leader within the “historic” group is the famed Miami Fontainebleau Resort and Spa program by Lasko Getaways. This year marks the 27th year the Lasko family is doing Passover programs and the 19th year that they are at the exquisite Fontainebleau Resort.
It is no accident that when Miami is mentioned as a Passover venue, Lasko is the first named mentioned. It is also no accident that when discussing which families have set the highest standard of quality for a Passover program, along with the caring and commitment that goes into producing a top notch program, it is Lasko. It is also no accident that when speaking about leaders within the Florida Jewish community who go to extremes to share their success with others by making sure that Passover is not only filled with receiving but also giving to others, it is Sam and Arlene Lasko.
One of the most beautiful aspects of Sam and Arlene’s lives is their passionate dedication to charity. They and their extended family have always held an unshakable belief that those who are fortunate and able to afford to be part of their programs must be reminded that they have an obligation to those who are less fortunate. Every day in synagogue and at many meals, presentations are made by various charities requesting help. Tens of thousands of dollars are raised by various charities such as: “Kids of Courage”; giving extremely ill children a chance to have some fun and enjoy some adventure in their lives, “Sharsheret”; helping women and families facing breast cancer and “Yachad”, a program for children with learning disabilities fostering inclusion, self-confidence and social skills.
Planning and running a program is a full time job year around. The intricate points of execution are endless. The venue has to be attractive and properly arranged, the catering and food has to be the best. The educational programs and speakers have to be top notch and the activities have to be fantastic.
The Laskos have assembled a unique group of partners who are responsible for producing their elite Passover program. This group includes co-director Hersh Taubenfeld; who has extensive experience in the travel and hospitality business; a vast team of chefs, food and beverage personnel, servers and waiters, under the management of Ram Caterers; and a superb educational staff led by the world renowned Jewish educator Rav Binny Freedman.
Taubenfeld is a consummate professional who is incredibly gifted in his ability to organize, recall and execute a huge list of requests with clarity and grace. Hersh never gets overwhelmed; he just does what has to be done. The programming, the meals in the huge dining room seating well over 1,000 guests, the tea room and breakfast rooms, the poolside barbecues and the special events all have the signature of Hersh Taubenfeld.
Rav Freedman, the famed Rosh of Yeshivat Orayta in The Old City of Jerusalem Israel, who once again is returning as scholar-in-residence, is leading the incredible Jewish education program at the Fontainebleau.
He is a distinguished alumnus of Yeshivat Har Etzion’s Kollel Semicha and Yaakov Herzog Teacher’s program, is an engaging educator, captivating storyteller and dynamic musician. He is a company commander in the IDF reserves and a survivor of the Sbarro Pizza Shop bombing. His weekly torah e-mail, Parsha Bytes, is read by 10s of thousands.
Rav Binny will be assisted by his wife Doreet, who is Director of Strategic Partnerships at Nefesh B’Nefesh and joined by his daughter and son-in-law, Maayan and Eliel Blum, both lieutenants and graduates of various elite units in the IDF.
The vast education staff also includes: Rabbi Aaaron Fleksher of the Riverdale Jewish Center NY; Rabbi Victor Gheriani, Rabbi of the Young Shaarei Tefila of Eatontown, N.J., and an expert on the spiritual development of young adults in the Deal, N.J. Sephardic Jewish Community; Dr. Jay Mazel, Director of Cardiac Electro Physiology at Washington Hospital Medical Center and Coordinator of the CME Credit Program; Mrs. Sharon Mazel, the co-author of the “What to Expect” parenting book and a former TV news producer.
Topics to be discussed include: By Rav Binny Freedman; “Is the West Fiddling While the World Burns -- “Who Really Runs Things? Do We Have Any Control in Our Lives”, -- “Finding G-d and Finding Ourselves Who Comes First”. Also included by Doreet Freedman, “Is Aliya a Brain Drain for the Diaspora or a Brain Gain for Israel”; by Rabbi Victor Gheriani, “Seichel and Speech, The Ingredients of True Freedom”; by Dr. Jay Mazel, “Awakening the Mind Body Connection, Can Thoughts Heal”; by Sharon Mazel, “Womb With a View, How the Nine Months Before Birth Shapes the Rest of Our Lives”; by Rabbi Aaron Fleksher, “To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate is it Even a Question.”
Wrapping up this year’s education program will be the inclusion of a special guest Saul Blinkoff. Saul, a famed Disney Studios animator and director who has recently directed the Disney TV Show “Doc McStuffins”, will be presenting workshops on animation and writing for TV and movies and speaking about his Hollywood experiences as a Jew.
The Fontainebleau Resort and Spa is a most unforgettable location. It is truly a state of the art resort with guest rooms offering stunning ocean views, a 40,000 ft Lapis Spa and a breathtaking pool area. The unique combination of the Lasko team, Ram Caterers and the Fontainebleau Resort are the unbeatable reason that “Lasko’s Fontainebleau Experience” is the iconic leader of Passover programs.
By Tzvi Allen Fishman