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March 30, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 30, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30, 2012 By Dr. Erica Brown JointMedia News Service Three times in the book of Exodus and once in Deuter- onomy, we are commanded to tell the master narrative of our people to our children. Sometimes it is because children ask, and we have a responsibility as bearers of a legacy to answer. Sometimes children do not ask, and we have to stimulate their curi- osity by becoming wonder- ful storytellers. Storytellers need to know their stories to tell them well. They need a terrific script and a pinch of creativity. Most of all, they need to feel inspired. It is impossible to tell a great story if it fails to move the storyteller first. The rabbis of the Talmud wondered why four verses were necessary to corn- By Ben Harris NEW YORK (JTA)--Pass- over celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, their wandering in the desert for 40 years, and their ultimate deliverance to the Promised Land. But a contemporary ob- server might be forgiven for imagining the holiday marks a different sort of migration: Large numbers of American Jews making their annual pil- grimage from cool northern climes to southern tropics, and from major metropolitan centers to the country, in advance of one of the most celebrated Jewish observances of the year. For decades a dedicated-- and apparently growing-- cohort of Jewish families has seen Passover as an op- portunity to escape not from lavery but from crummy weather, kitchen drudgery and endless house cleaning, finding their salvation in gourmet kosher vacations on white sandy beachesin Miami or Aruba. Dozens of programs around the world are now offering fully catered, kosher-for- Passover vacations at top vacation destinations, saving families the hassle and headache of ridding their homes of leavened products and preparing a succession of lavish meals for friends and relatives. This ;ear, Passover can be observed at one of several beachfront hotels in Miami, on a Caribbean cruise, along the canals in Venice, at an eco-resort in Costa Rica, at an exclusive getaway in Phuket, Thailand, or steps from Niaga- ra Falls. There are programs in Ixtapa, Mexico, and Sardinia, Italy; Marbella, Spain; and the south of lrance. Those of a less adventurous spirit can hit the Jersey Shore, the tried-and-true kosher ho- tels of the Catskill Mountains and the more corporate-style hotels in Connecticut and upstate New York. And that's not counting Israel, where virtually every city offers mul- tiple options for the Passover traveler. "This year has probably been the biggest year we've ever had," said Laurie van'Es- schoten, owner of the Ontario Travel Bureau in California, a travel agency that books Passover vacations to dozens Making the seder fun again municate the obligation at none of that. It is told in a aHaggadahafewweeksbefore tunes or ask tle kids to pre- Passover to retell the tale of tepid and- incoherent way, Passover and read it through, pare a rap song. Justgoonline the Exodus. They concluded read from a poor English You might want to assign and you'll find loads of lyrics.' that these four verses must translation without color or parts to your guests and ask Here are a few of my top ten: represent four different kinds charm. It is the weak content thereto do somethingcreative of children, offering an warm-up to most family withit. Reading Exodus 1-15 Sung tothetuneof"These educational scale of learning meals, even though it is one never hurts either, are a Few of My Favorite styles or personalities who of the most observed rituals Use props: Great storyteli- Things" each must hear he story among American Jews. ers use props because objects Cleaning and cooking'and in his or her own way. One It doesn't matter if you're themselves are powerful sto- so many dishes size fits all rarely fits anyone young or old. Everyone ap- rytellers. Findobjects inyour Out with the hametz, no properly. Not only dowe have preciates a well-told story, so home that tell your family's pasta, no knishes to know the story well to tell this year ask yourself: am I Jewish story and put them on Fish that's gefillted, horse- it; we also need to know our doing a good job in the chain the table. Or have every guest radish that stings audience well to make sure of tradition at telling the bring an object that tells his TheseareafewofourPass- they hear it. exodus story? Is my Seder or her family story, over things. The best stories are fun to fun? Will it be memorable for Decorate the Room: You tell and fun to hear. They in- everyone around the table? do it for birthday parties. Sung tothetuneof"Maria": corporate alloursenses.They If the answer is "not really," Why not for Passover? Why Elijah! .offer a range of emotional here are a few ways to fulfill should anyone sit in a dining 1 just saw the prophet responses from laughter to the biblical commandment to room in suburbia when they Elijah. tears, and good stories have tell the story, and the Disney couldbe indowntown ancient . And suddenly that name staying power. They continue way to make it stick. Cairo? Try costumes. We even Will never sound the same to inform our values long Brush Up on the Details: had our kids write and read to me. after they are shared. The No actor reads his lines the ancient weather reports. Elijah! Exodus story can be all of night of the musical. Don't Chancesareit'shotandsunny. that. But most often, it is just dust off recipes. Takeout Sing the story with show Sung to the tune of"Just a At Passover, let my people go south PAGE 9A Spoon Full of Sugar" Just a tad of haroset helps the bitter herbs go down, The bitter herbs go down, the bitter herbs go down. Just a tad of Charoset helps the bitter herbs go down, In the most disguising way. Thege are a few of my favorite things to help make Passover a living history les- son and a memorable evening each year. We are a people with no word for history, only mem- ory. We are memory-makers. That is an awe-inspiring responsibility. Let's do it well on the most important night of our story telling year. Dr. Erica Brown is the scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Her forthcoming book is "Happy Endings: The Fine Art of Dying Well(Simon and Schuster)." ofdestinations."Itlookstome around the world) and is person (average April high disappeared. We probably had like people are gettingbackto relatively affluent. The price temperature: 63). Ten days a 20 percent decrease." theideaoftraveling.It'sreally tag for the programs is not inArubastartsat$3,299,but For those who would oth- been phenomenal for us." + for the faint of heart, gener- that doesn't include airfare, erwise be cleaning their Passover vacations have ally starting at about $2,500 whichminimallyaddsanother homes and spending endless existed as long as there per person based on double $500 per person for flights hours preparing meals, the have been kosher hotels, occupancy for 10 days. from the New York area. appeal of Passover vacations For decades, the Catskills in Presidential is operating Perhaps not surprisingly, isn't hard to understand. But New York State and Miami three programs this year--in industry insiders say a chai- with restrictions on travel Beach were the two prime Scottsdale, Ariz.; Aventura, lenging economicclimate-- and electricity use mandated destinations. But beginning Fla.; and on the Mayan Riviera and especiallythe collapse in by Orthodox observance of in the early 1990s, operators in Mexico--that aim for the the financial services sector the holidays, they can also began to expand their offer- higherendofanalreadyhigh-, in2009 has had a dramatic become confining--and a ings Puerto Rico, Arizona, end market, with five-star effect on business, leading bit boring. Aruba and more became the resorts featuring champion- to the collapse of some "There's nowhere to go," sites of fully kosher Passover ship golf courses, multiple companies, said Lisa Rubenstein, who programs featuring noted swimming pools and other In 2009, Lasko Family grew up on the Upper_East speakers, entertainment, luxury amenities. Kosher Tours, operators of Side of Manhattan and goes children's programs and day At the Fontainbleau Hotel the popular Fontainbleau away for Passover with her trips, not to mention the ever in Miami Beach--one of the program, was sued for failing family almost every year. "It's popular 24-hour tea rooms, largest, oldestandbest-known to pay more than $200,000 to what I imagine a cruise to be. With the proliferation of Passover destinations in the one of its suppliers. A federal Youcan'tleave.There'salways offerings, van Esschoten country prices begin at judge ruled against the com- some food happening in the -has become something of a more than $4,000 per person, pany, requiringLaskotomake dining room. It's always tea Passover consultant, helping A two-bedroom suite in the payments of $120,000. time, snack time, dinner's arrangetravelandotherlogis- hotel'sVersaillesBuildingwill Sam Lasko declined to dis- being served, whatever. And tics for Passover travelers but set you back about $10,000, cuss his company's finances you're seeing old people from also guiding them through a not including a 25 percent with JTA. Bti this year, the your synagogue in bathing bewildering array of options surcharge for tips and taxes, company is operating under suits you know, people you toavenueappropriatetotheir For families traveling with a new name, Lasko Kosher don't want to see in bathing needs--particularly with children and grandparents, Getaways, and is operating suits." re.spect to religious nuances, total travel costs can easily only two programs, inMiami Program organizers go Theprogramsaregenerally run into the tens of thou- and Orlando, downfromseven to great lengths to pepper geared toward an Orthodox sands, in 2009, when it ran programs their itineraries with diver- clientele, with traditional There are less expensive in Nevada, Arizon.a and West- sions. Jewish scholars are gender-segregatedprayerand and often colder options chester County, N.Y. flown in to deliver lectures. highstandardsofkashrut.But as well. Among the most "Passover 2009 was the Bands, comedians, mental- there's a range of observance affordable is the Stamford worst year," Vidockler said. ists, magicians and more within those parameters and Plaza hotel in Connecticut, "Abouthalftheoperatorswent provide entertainment.Some van Esschoten can divine the which runs over $2,000 per out of business. Customers programs featurewell-known subtle clues that hint at the particular shade of Orthodoxy at each destination. "The most important thing is, I'm checking to see if they're going to have separate swimming," she said. "Some of the more modern programs do have separate swimming, but only at certain times of A Senior Living Community where Hosplity is a Way of Life, day. If it's not a complete hotel takeover that might not be Assisted Living - Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care possible." Suite Selections, some with Lake Views Families who succeed in identifying the right pro- gram often return year after ,Monthly Shabbat Service year. And once they become accustomed to outsourcing Monthly Bagels and LoxJuncheon their Passover preparations, * Special Celebrations and Me&Is during High Holy Holidays the habit becomes hard to break. Tour operators say their Call us today, stop by for a visit, join us for lunch, or repeat business each year can all of the above. You are always welcome! be upward of 70 percent. : - "This population is pretty + jx-'-" much addicted to going away "; for Passover," said Stuart Vi- ':" .'OU n'r x. /J+:"VE dockler, who runs Presidential ,-.:I,-JAV .....  : : " Maitland,1301 W. MaitlandFL 32751Blvd" Kosher Holidays. 00ss,s+r00D L,v,.++ 407-645-3990 The typical Passover trav- 130t W, Maitland Blvd. * MaIand, FL 32751 eler is generally Orthodox. Lto lives in a major Jewish center 407-645-3990 Assisted Living Facility License No. 8447 in the northern United States Skilled Nursing Facility License No 1635096 ]',.tLto (though the programs boast they draw customers from cantors leading services and seders. The Chasidic reggae star Matisyahu performed at several Passover destinations before his celebrity profile outgrew them. But veterans of Passover programs almost uniformly agree--it's all about the food. "The eating situation in general, I think back on it as pretty gluttonous," said Jack Steinberg, who has gone away for Passover with his family about a half-dozen times. "The food is a really major aspect of the Whole event. There are people storming the cafeteria 'the moment that it opens." Ellen Weiss, who also has been on numerous programs atvarious destinationsmd de- scribes their cost as "prohibi- tive amount of money," has had'more mixed experiences. At a Florida hotel one year she enjoyed a private beach and an extremely solicitous staff. Another year, i n New York, the crowd was pushy and impolite. It was also more religious than she would have liked. One gentleman upbraided Weiss for not dressing with sufficient modesty. "He wondered why I was wasn't wearing stockings," Weiss recalled. "I said, 'Well why are you looking at my feet?'"