(Courtesy of Passover Listings) Every year in the spring, more than 100,000 members of the Jewish community descend upon Mexico, Miami, New York, New Jersey, the Bahamas, Greece and even Dubai to celebrate a luxurious Pesach holiday.
These ‘kosher travelers,’ as they are called, occupy five-star hotels and resorts and indulge in everything vacationers could want over the course of a ten-day holiday getaway, from mouth-watering food to amazing amenities, live entertainment to day camps and teenage programs.
Drawing families, married couples and singles looking to meet their bashert, Passover programs attract a diverse crowd from all parts of the world and walks of life.
“You get what you pay for,” Doni Schwartz, co-founder of Passover Listings, the Yelp or Tripadvisor of the Passover programs industry, said. “When you book an all-inclusive Passover vacation, you know your money is well spent. You stay local or travel around the world to an exotic location and enjoy the weather, the time with your family and more. You have a wonderful time.”
Over the past decade, kosher Passover travel has become an increasingly popular market due to the rapid demand within the modern Orthodox community. Passover program operators, such as Lasko Getaways in Florida, Kosherica in Bahamas, and Leisure Time Tours in Florida and New Jersey, have years of experience catering to people’s unique needs over the holiday.
“We are very detail oriented and take your Pesach vacation seriously,” Alyson Feldman, co-owner of FFH Events, which holds its acclaimed Pesach program at the Villa Roma resort in the Catskills, said. “We have been in business for seven years and have many return customers and recommendations from previous guests. We do our best to keep the costs down, while giving each family a beautiful vacation.”
Those who have gone on these programs say they are seizing the opportunity to spend 10 days away with their loved ones, enjoying swimming pools, spas, gyms, tennis courts and golf courses, while avoiding the all-too-real burden of readying their homes for Pesach, including cleaning out all traces of chametz and preparing seders.
Passover programs feature constant poolside barbecues with lamb, veal, steak and ribs, cuisine from around the world, from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, dessert buffets and 24-hour tearooms; customers often leave carrying a little more weight around their midsections.
This year’s holiday follows two consecutive seasons of limited Passover travel due to the pandemic, and excitement for programs is palpable. Passover begins April 15, and Pesach programs around the world are already filling up; those who have yet to book an all-inclusive luxury Pesach experience may have to be put on a waitlist.
“After two unpredictable seasons due to the pandemic, demand is on the rise as families are eager to celebrate Pesach in exciting new places with friends old and new,” Daniel Kramer, co-founder of Passover Listings, said.
There are many operators offering memorable experiences. Shainfeld Tours is a popular international option offering Pesach programs in Dubai and Rhodes, Greece. Orthodox singer Mordechai Ben David, known by his initials “MBD” and as the “King of Jewish Music,” is scheduled to perform live there. His appearance is one example of Passover programs booking top-notch entertainment popular among the observant community.
“Shainfeld Tours has been doing Pesach programs for over 25 years with great success,” a company representative said. “We have very high standards of food, entertainment, activities and resorts.”
Those seeking something more personalized than a bustling hotel resort may look to something like Seacoast Suites, providing families an opportunity to stay in a fully stocked condominium in Miami, Florida.
“No pushing in lines at the buffet and no need to get dressed for every meal,” the company boasts on its website.
“We offer a unique combination of ‘Home and Hotel,’” a Seacoast Suites representative added. “We have fully kashered and equipped full-sized apartments with amazing food, shul, rabbi, lectures, pool snacks and more on the famous and sunny Miami Beach. We offer a very personalized and concierge service.”
Rabbi Mordechai Schiffman will lead an outdoor shul at the Miami Beach Florida Pesach Program Seacoast Suites. As the program’s scholar-in-residence, Schiffman, an assistant professor of Jewish education at Yeshiva University, will lead illuminating and thought-provoking discussions.
Additional trips include Chabad of Hawaii’s Pesach in Hawaii. Exclusive to the first 150 guests to sign up, the program takes place at the Trump International Hotel in Honolulu’s Waikiki, and the organizer promises a one-of-a-kind island adventure.
“Hawaii is an unparalleled, beautiful environment; the hotel is a beautiful, five-star hotel; the caterer is a top-of-the-line caterer; the ruach, the entertainment, is all five-star,” Chabad of Hawaii Rabbi Itchel Krasnjansky said. “Our attentiveness to our guests is our highest priority. In short, Pesach in Hawaii has all the makings of a top-of-the-line program.”
The biggest challenge may be choosing a Passover program among the many options. Fortunately, there’s a website for that: Passover Listings, or Passoverlistings.com, aims to make the process easier and more transparent. It has an easy-to-use search and filter tool, while user-submitted reviews offer reliable information about nearly 150 programs in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Israel and Africa.
Additionally, the Los Angeles-based company moderates a Facebook group, Passover Program Reviews, with more than 6,000 members, as well as a WhatsApp chat, each facilitating the easy exchange of information around Passover programs.
“The reviews on the company’s website offer people firsthand accounts of what these different trips are like,” Schwartz said. “Our goal is to make the experience of planning a Pesach getaway as simple and painless as possible.”