Back in the day, Jews traveled 40 days and 40 nights to get the heck out of Egypt under Pharaoh’s rule. Today, folks hop a few-hours flight to the Caribbean to break free from work and school and to relax in paradise. Traveling to another destination for Passover with the members of your own tribe is the ultimate pilgrimage, especially as the holiday typically falls around Easter and spring-break schedules.
“It’s fashionable to travel to places that make Passover more of a festive short vacation,” says rabbi-to-the-stars Shmuley Boteach, who is booked with Kosherica this year at Atlantis in the Bahamas. “There’s great meaning in having a seder at home. But when you can have one with 100 other people in a pretty and relaxing place, well, that is a remarkable feat.”
A powerful resource to tap into when traveling to Jewish communities during the holidays is Chabad.org. The world’s largest Jewish outreach center lists more than 3,000 institutions in 75 countries. Passover in Azerbaijan? Mozambique? Singapore? There’s a Chabad rabbi organizing something somewhere.
For the less daring seeking something consistently fabulous, theFour Seasonscaters to Jewish travelers during the holidays. TheFour Seasons Whistler,Four Seasons Westlake Village, andFour Seasons Florence host annual seders. The Four Seasons Jettook off March 16 and continues during Passover stops at the Los Angeles, Hualalai, Bora Bora, Sydney, Bali, Chiang Mai, Mumbai, Istanbul, and As Passover approaches (the first seder is sundown on April 4), traveling to a foreign land can be both luxurious and an exciting cultural experience that makes a vast, complicated world suddenly feel small, familiar, and intimate. Sites like Kosherica.com, TotallyJewishTravel.com, and ClubKosher.com have long arranged such crusades. Check out a few of our favorite spots that welcome in the prophet Elijah and accommodate your unleavened needs.
This Caribbean island has been home to a small Jewish population since the 1500s. Today, roughly 1,500 Jewish people live there year-round. San Juan plays host to a number of Passover festivities at many of the different luxury hotels. This year’s hot ticket: Club Kosher at the Caribe Hilton.
“Puerto Rico’s our best location for Passover because it’s in the Caribbean and feels foreign, but without the legwork of a passport or worrying about international cellphone use,” says Club Kosher host Charles Rosenay. “We don’t worry about the costs of importing food, so we can keep it affordable.” (The Caribe Hilton Passover getaway with Club Kosher is $89.98 a night, including stay, activities, and all meals.) He describes the holy glatt kosher vibe as “beachy” with “a relaxed atmosphere.”
The C of the ABC Dutch Antilles boasts its own longtime Semitic history, as Curaçao is home to the oldest (est. 1659) synagogue still in use in the Western Hemisphere. Mikvé Israel-Emanuel is a major tourist destination visited by all denominations, with the anecdotal showstopper, its sandy floors. The heavily dusted chapel floors are not an island aesthetic but rather an homage to Jews on the Iberian Peninsula who hid their Judaism during the Inquisition. Sand muffled the sounds of festive revelers from potential denouncers.
For a posh Pesach, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort here offers glatt kosher menus from “a collection of the most talented professional world-class gourmet chefs in the kosher food industry, working with the most famous Jewish caterers.” Mikveh Israel’s community seder, inclusive of the island’s population of 145,000 Jews, throws an island-wide charoset-making gathering the night before. (Fun fact: Instead of gefilte fish, red snapper is served.)
Despite lingering limitations of the American embargo, Cuba is a destination that Jewish groups opened to U.S. travelers years ago. These exceptions catered to those willing to dole out the extra dough for people-to-people exchange programs. Shalom Cuba is a specialty tour run by Latour, with a license that covers U.S.-to-Cuba travel through June 2016. El Patronato Synagogue in Havana annually hosts a glatt kosher Passover seder catered by Cuba’s only kosher butcher and prepared by master chefs from Israel, Mexico, and France.
Shalom Cuba’s nine-day pilgrimage doesn’t fall during Passover this year, but the trip coordinates interactions with local Jewish Cubans young and old across the island.
Panama City, Panama
Panama City has a history of Jewish folk hailing from the Iberian Peninsula, dating back to the early 16th century. More immigrants settled in the mid-19th century, drawn by the bi-oceanic railway construction and California gold rush, pushing the population of Jews to 8,150 — the largest in Central America. Coexistence is a powerful triumph in Panama. The population thrives and works in harmony with the 3,500-strong Muslim population, many of whom are Palestinian.
The Westin Playa Bonita Panama expects to host a number of Jewish groups this year. The resort, part of the Empresas Bern hotel group, includes eight properties with locations in the city center and in jungle and beach surroundings. The hotels, naturally, are owned by a family of Jewish descent.
“We arrange catering from an outside catering company,” says Herman Bern Jr., President of Bern Hotels and Resorts about his Westin Playa Bonita property. The resort meets glatt kosher needs and sets up a fully kosher kitchen when requested. “Depending on the size this year, we will either prepare a dining room or use one of our [seven] restaurants.”
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