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Inaugural ‘Pesach in Jerusalem’ Recap

Rabbi Avi Rosalimsky and Dr. Doron Katz teamed up with David London of The Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel (AACI) and Oren Lash of Lash Tourism to offer a one-of-a-kind 2023 Pesach program in the center of Yerushalayim.

Why was this Pesach program different from all other Pesach programs? For starters, guests were finally able to say, “L’shana HAZOT b’Yerushalayim, THIS year in Jerusalem.”

As the newest Pesach program on the scene, the “Pesach in Jerusalem” (PIJ) program took place at the beautiful and newly renovated Cassia Hotel (formerly known as The King Solomon Hotel), located in the heart of Yerushalayim, within a short walk from the Old City, Machane Yehuda, First Station, Ben Yehuda Street and much of what Jerusalem has to offer.

Upon arriving at the program, guests were greeted with a beautiful Pesach in Jerusalem welcome bag, which included the stunning Pesach in Jerusalem printed program with all necessary general and scheduling information for guests, the new Haggadah that Rabbi Rosner recently authored (as a speaker on the program, he took the time to sign copies over Chol Hamoed as well), a stunning Haggadah put together by the Government of Israel, Pesach in Jerusalem bracelets, as well as beautifully designed Pesach in Jerusalem dri-fit T-shirts, decks of cards and power adapters.

In addition to offering the finest food, amenities and entertainment, Rabbi Rosalimsky remarked that “our program offered people a chance to experience a Pesach with a purpose. In addition to all of the trappings of an amazingly fun and exciting hotel program, with Hashem’s help, we were able to provide the perfect combination of physical enjoyment and comfort on the one hand, coupled with the right amount of spirituality and inspiration on the other hand. And Yerushalayim, the place where heaven and earth meet, was the perfect place to achieve this goal.”

At the Cassia Hotel, guests enjoyed an impressive choice of tastefully decorated and equipped rooms and suites, all of which were completely renovated over the last year or two. The guests also had full access to the hotel’s impressive array of amenities including a rooftop heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi overlooking the Old City of Yerushalayim, a large and professional gym and sauna, and a beautiful and spacious lobby.

Under the B’Datz Mehadrin Hashgacha, the program was kitniyot-free and provided three meals a day, featuring the finest cuisine from internationally acclaimed chefs who created a unique dining experience of the highest caliber.

At the program’s conclusion, Dr. Katz said: “Bringing almost 400 Jews to Jerusalem for Pesach was truly a dream come true for me. And seeing the never-ending smiles glued to everyone’s faces as they enjoyed an uplifting and meaningful Pesach was the most fulfilling feeling in the world.”

Beyond the luxurious hotel and the five-star cuisine, a star-studded group of prominent rabbis, speakers, dignitaries, performers and pro athletes joined the program in order to ensure that all guests had a meaningful and inspirational experience as well.

Among the speakers were: Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, Rabbi Aryeh Lightsone, Rav Aharon Pessin, Rabbi Shalom Rosner, Rabbi Yakov and Mrs. Lori Palatnik, Rabbi Dov Lipman, Rabbi Daniel Wolnerman, and Senator Joe and Mrs. Hadassah Lieberman. Additional speakers included Dr. Maren Scharf and Dr. Howie Forman, among others. Throughout the holiday, the speakers gave various talks, shiurim and classes on a variety of topics pertaining to Jewish law, Jewish life, Jewish thought, politics, and general self-help. There were also numerous panel discussions and Q&A sessions where the guests engaged the speakers on a variety of issues.

In addition to the wide variety of rabbis and speakers, Pesach in Jerusalem also featured two world-class athletes. Tamir Goodman, a pro-basketball star who was previously dubbed “The Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated, joined the program. He ran daily basketball clinics for adults, teenagers and kids alike that were a huge hit and he shared his powerful story of Kiddush Hashem both on and off the court. Additionally, Olympic runner and mother of five Beatie Deutsch joined the program. She conducted a daily running workshop for women and she spoke about her Olympic journey as a frum woman.

The program also featured exciting trips and world-class entertainment. Throughout Shabbat and Yom Tov, there were free walking tours of different parts of Yerushalayim that were well attended. During Chol Hamoed, there were many simultaneous trip options for all family types, sizes and interests. Some of the fun trips included: Masada, the Dead Sea, Shilo and Bikurei Shilo, riding in all-terrain vehicles, rappelling, Chevron, The Chocolate Factory, The City of David, Chizkiyahu’s Water Tunnels, Caliber 3 and much more.

During the nights of Chol Hamoed, there were entertainment options galore for adults and children. On Saturday night, adults and teenagers enjoyed a laugh-out-loud comedy show by comedian Yossi Tarablus, while the children enjoyed a dance party with Netanel Katz (aka “Simcha on Wheels”) and an exciting magic show. On Sunday evening, there was an informative and interesting panel discussion on the U.S.-Israel relationship moderated by Rabbi Rosalimsky. The panelists included Lieberman, Ambassador Danny Ayalon, Rabbi Lightstone and Rabbi Lipman. Following the panel was a jaw-dropping show by mentalist Michael Samen. The Chol Hamoed entertainment was then capped off on Monday night by a rocking concert with Ohad Moskowitz, Duvie Shapiro (who also served as the program’s chazan) and Simcha on Wheels. A highlight of the concert was the standing ovation given to 11 Israeli soldiers from the Nachal Charedi unit who were invited to join the front row.

The program also included a robust day camp and teen program run by star youth directors Ben and Raizy Schwartz. The individual activities were obviously geared to the specific age groups, but some of the activities included: an Erev Yom Tov animal show, arts and crafts, face painting, balloon animals, board game competitions, ping-pong and pool table tournaments, a talent show, game shows, basketball clinics with Tamir Goodman, and much more. In addition to the large array of activities, Yom Tov and Shabbat also afforded the teenagers in particular the unique opportunity to engage in discussions with many of the program’s prominent rabbis and speakers.

When asked about her experience as a guest, Dr. Maren Scharf commented: “Pesach in Jerusalem was an unbelievable program from start to finish. From the moment that we arrived at the hotel, we knew that this was going to be a very special experience for our family. Dr. Katz and Rabbi Rosalimsky literally thought of everything. From the constant array of incredibly inspiring classes to the nonstop programming for adults, teenagers and children alike and everything in between, this program was truly mind-blowing. What was most remarkable to me was their ability to maintain the balance of a fun and exciting program, while also making us feel like our holiday was infused with meaning and purpose. And all of it was in an environment where everyone felt comfortable and happy.”

Pesach in Jerusalem was the only program of its kind in Israel that took over an entire hotel and catered to English speakers, many of whom observed a two-day Yom Tov. “It was basically an American program that happened to have been just minutes from the Kotel,” Rabbi Rosalimsky added.

Program attendee Jack Forgash remarked: “The program was awesome and so well organized. I have been to many Pesach programs around the world, and they can often get boring as the days go by. But the Pesach in Jerusalem program remained fresh and exciting the whole time. Not only for me, but for my children and grandchildren as well. My only complaint was that it went by too quickly. While on this program, I truly wished that Pesach would have continued for 10 days or more.”

For anyone interested in being kept up to date regarding next year’s Pesach program, please email: Sales@PesachInJerusalem.

By Jewish Link Staff

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