It’s hard to believe the world has changed this much in just a few weeks. A few weeks ago, life was basically normal. Sure, we’d heard about coronavirus. But over the years, we’ve also heard about the Zika virus, ebola, and a half a dozen other health emergencies that never blossomed into the full-fledged health crises we’re seeing today. But this time, it’s for real. You know it’s for real when you’re staying home instead of going to work. You know it’s real when you can’t go out for dinner or even to a movie. You know it’s for real when you see so few cars on the streets, so few people about.
Amidst all the panic, there are some heartwarming scenes on the internet, many of them from Israel. A balcony sing-a-long. A balcony wedding. Lots of balcony scenes and singing out of windows. It’s heartwarming to see Am Yisroel pulling together, even though this virus is so scary. My favorite video is of a chazan singing prayers over a loudspeaker from a rooftop in one of Israel’s largest cities. He sings the prayers beautifully, surrounded by high rises. His neighbors answer from all around him, repeating his prayer. It’s amazing.
And that’s how we’ll get through this—by pulling together. In Israel, abroad and here in America. One thing we’ll have to figure out, though, far before this health crisis ends, is how to spend Passover. You didn’t forget, did you? It would be understandable if you did. But be aware. Passover is coming, and quickly. It’s only a week away now.
Quarantine or no quarantine, Passover stops for no one. Through all the mishigas, all of us will still have to decide where and how to spend the holiday. Most of us are likely to spend it at home now.
In the meantime, while you spend numerous hours browsing online, please know that now and in the future, as the number one Passover program review site, Passover Program Reviews, the largest highly engaged Facebook group with close to 5,000 Pesach vacationers and companies like Passoverlistings.com,will be here for you. It has the latest available information available with updates from resorts, personal experiences and stories.
As of now, 99 percent of Passover programs have been shut down. A few programs have limited themselves to very small circles. But most have been completely shuttered. Many cities are on lockdowns and have imposed restrictions on gatherings. Plus, more visibly, there are all sorts of travel bans, imposed by our own and other governments.
It’s really sad. Thousands of Jews worldwide look forward to the resort Passover experience. Many undoubtedly put money away year-round to pay for these programs. People are staying home. Many are out of work. And of course, meanwhile, we’ll all be preparing for Pesach, which we all know is a job in itself. But it’s especially tough if you haven’t done this preparation in years and weren’t planning on doing it this year.
Please consider the economic devastation being felt around the country and around the world. Businesses are closed, but are still paying rent or mortgages, utilities and other expenses. Restaurants have food spoiling as we speak. There are many businesses who are contemplating bankruptcy. And this extends to the Passover program industry. There are many costs that operators have already spent and will never be able to recoup. Virtually every program out there, all closed now, had to make deposits to hotels many months ago. They purchased food, booked entertainers, rabbis and other professionals. It’s expensive to put all these events together. Office staff have been working for months.
These expenses were paid, and operators are unlikely to get much or any of it back. It looks like there will be a bailout for the airlines, but Passover programs? Forget it. These Passover program operators who have been doing such a great job for decades are being financially ruined right now. Their whole yearly income is gone, plus their investments. Most of that will be impossible to recoup. The same is true for food ordered months ago. Suppliers needed those funds to get the orders together. They can’t give that money back, because it’s already been spent. And naturally, all the deposits have already been sent to entertainers and other industry professionals. Many Passover professionals are in a precarious financial situation and could lose everything they’ve built over the past 10-20 years.
It all sounds like a lot of gloom and doom. But you know what? We’ll survive. We’re survivors. Eventually, this plague will pass, and we’ll all be able to get back to our lives. Let’s look forward to the future.
If you’re missing a Passover program this year, we wish you a wonderful Pesach at home. The programs, no matter how hard many are being hit, will be back in future years nonetheless. Even more so, they are working around the clock to make it work with each and every customer. The industry will rebound and prevail, and offer even better programs in the future. There will be wonderful Passover vacations by the beach and in the mountains with cornucopias of delicious food in future years. There will be poolside ice cream sundaes once again! Have no doubt.
Remember, we’re all in this together. It’ll be difficult, but we’ll make it through this. We always do. Let’s be there for one another. If you can help someone, please do. Look out for the elderly. And remember all of Am Yisroel in your prayers.
And remember, no matter where you decide to spend the holiday, be safe, but have a wonderful time too.
By Matt Aaron