Pesach Hotels: A Second Look

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18 Responses

  1. LOberstein says:

    These are the comments of one of my sons in law:

    I agree with some of his sentiments, particularly the anecdote about the large family, but I also don’t think that the only reason a person should go away for Pesach is that they might end up learning in a beis ha-medrash. The thought that Rabbis would ever even consider banning pesach hotels just boggles my mind. Does Jonathan Rosenblum (or the Gedolei ha-Dor) think people should never go on vacation during the year? Don’t they realize that by encouraging people to spend their money on Pesach, there is a much stronger heeding of the Kashrus laws. People who normally go away during the year often face challening kashrus situations in which they either compromise their standards or simply suffer. Penina and I went away to Puerto Rico, and we ate canned Tuna fish for Shabbat inside our hotel rooms. We could only get inside the rooms by having a guard open the doors for us with our electronic key, which according to some may be a problem of Amira Le-akum. Food is not the end all and be all of life, but it is nice to not have to think about it. Pesach hotels bring people from many different communities together and people forge friendships that they never would have had otherwise. Families get to spend time together, whereas many who spend Peasch at home would work the entire Pesach – like I did.

  2. Mark says:

    LOberstein,

    “The thought that Rabbis would ever even consider banning pesach hotels just boggles my mind. Does Jonathan Rosenblum (or the Gedolei ha-Dor) think people should never go on vacation during the year?”

    Read again – he never said the rabbis considered this or that he thinks it’s a good idea. Some folks who wrote into Mishpachah suggested it, not JR, nor the rabbis.

  3. joel rich says:

    R’JRo writes “As always our true, far more difficult task is not to rely on bans but to instill an understanding of Pesach so deep and uplifting that Cancun cannot compare.”
    ==============================

    Agree-Interesting is which cases bans have been used and which not and the underlying theory(ies) of bans that one would extrapolate from the empirical data.

    KT

  4. David Alt says:

    My son assisted Kashruth supervision a recent Western state Pesach retreat, in order to enjoy the facilities for the week. He will never go to one of these again due to kashruth concerns. He ate matzoha and veggies all week. The chief kashruth supervisor was a very frum looking but very young “Rabbi” who looked for friendship from the largely Hispanic kitchen staff. They had no awe or respect of him. My son also notes a conflict of interest: Kashruth supervisors are not imposed by an outside authority, but chosen and hired by the business people who will lose money if kashruth lapses are discovered. So customers should be as interested in the business owners’ character as that of the staff, rabbinic or otherwise.

  5. jonathan rosenblum says:

    Your son-in-laws comments are extremely puzzling. First, I wrote that one reader had suggested that the rabbonim should just institute a ban. I never suggested that anyone rabbis were considering the idea. Second, the claim that vacationing on Pesach is a shmirah for kashrus observance is puzzling. Many writers on the subject of Pesach hotels — Michael Kaiser in the Jewish Observer a few years back; Rabbi Yitzchok Mitnik in a letter in the upcoming issue of Mishpacha; and many rabbonim privately — have noted the vast number of difficulties involved in changing over an entire kitchen and supervising so many staff members to meet not only the requirements of kashrus but of Pesach about which Klal Yisrael has always been particularly stringent.

  6. Garnel Ironheart says:

    An excellent follow-up to the original, obviously contentious article.

    I would like to think that Torah is complex enough that it cannot be applied with a “one size fits all” attitude to all observant Jews. After all, there were 13 tribes that left Egypt, each with its own approach. The Torah tells us that each brought an identical dedication gift to the newly minted Mishkan yet the Midrash on that chapter notes that the motivation behind each gift was unique to each tribe.
    Some could not imagine having a seder anywhere other than home. Others have different priorities that lead to going to a hotel (the food was great, by the way!) In both cases, however, the motivations are identical – a desire to maximize the Pesach and Seder experiences in order to feel a connection to the Ribbono Shel Olam who took us out of Mitzrayim, just like the 12 “identical” gifts brought by the princes of the tribes.

    If I sometimes sound strident in my criticism in this forum, it could be because I fear that variety, the idea that God can be approached through Torah in different fashions as long as sincere fear of Heaven and learning of Torah are the foundation of one’s attitude, is being lost to people who increasingly believe that we should all look like the products of an assembly line. “The glory of the King is in the multitude of the people” after all.

  7. LOberstein says:

    Let me clarify. I know that Jonathan did not suggest a ban on hotels, but I did see letters in Mishpacha suggesting it.The fact that my son in law felt as he did shows that sometimes just mentioning an idea is enough to give the impression that it is a possibility. It is the law of unintended consequences.
    As far as Kashrus is concerned, most of our holy ancestors did not “mish” on Pesach. My zaide was so frum that he wouldn’t eat corn out of a can the whole year. My mother had to cook the fresh corn and then cut it off the cobb for him. I cannot generalize about all hotels, that is why we trust kashrus organizations. The job of mashgiach in a Pesach hotel is very difficult,especially when a frum boy has to have a truncated seder late at night because he was watching the food preparation while everyone else had their seder. But, there were such “servants” in the time of the Mishna and halacha dealt with it.
    As far as vacations in general, Pesach is a very hard yom tov for the women. If you have the money, going to a hotel is a way for the extended family with several generations to enjoy liesure and celebrate together. Such families also can afford to have a private seder in a separate room and do it at their pace. People who can afford it do travel all over the world and sometimes they compromise their kashrus standards, going to a kosher program avoids that challenge.

  8. MalachHamovies says:

    Jonathan,

    Why don’t you write about the real financial hell that the charedeim go through in Israel. Due to my financial status i can choose weather or not to go to a hotel for peasch. Yet, tens of thousands of charedei families are FORCED to marry off their children in sheer opulance. For example, why does the chasan and kalla’s family have to go into major debt when marrying off a child ? Why the exchange of useless idiotic expensive gifts – (unless you are very wealthy) between the chasan and kalla (paid by the parents of course) ? Where does living btzimsum and avoiding gashmius come in over here ?? Why don’t you speak out against an evil system that’s killing the poor charedei man and forcing him in his prime years to spending 1/2 of each and every year collecting overseas ???

    Why don’t the rabbonim (and yourself) speak about this travesty ??

    I have seen more tears from meshulachim who raise money (and go heavily into debt) for hachnass kalla then from people who went away for peasach.

  9. Jewboy says:

    “One friend wrote that going away to a hotel allowed him to spend most of his week in the beis medrash, a luxury he would not have had at home, where he would have been the program director for his young children.”

    This is a troubling line. So is the friend here saying he was glad that being in a hotel allowed him not to spend time with his young children?
    Pesach and other holidays should be a time one tries to spend more times with his kids. Especially in today’s world where parents have many obligations, it’s vastly important from a chinuch perspective to spend enough time with one’s kids. If I understood this line correctly, it’s another negative aspect of Pesach hotel.

  10. Ori says:

    MalachHamovies: Why don’t you speak out against an evil system that’s killing the poor charedei man and forcing him in his prime years to spending 1/2 of each and every year collecting overseas

    Ori: Why is begging for money that much more lucrative than working?

  11. Garnel Ironheart says:

    > This is a troubling line. So is the friend here saying he was glad that being in a hotel allowed him not to spend time with his young children?

    There is a balance on Yom Tov between spending time with one’s family and spoending time learning. Too much in either direction is not good. I think the meaning of the line about children meant that while his kids could be off meeting new friends and enjoying Yom Tov with their peers he could learn without worrying that every 30 seconds there would be an interruption. Later he could join his children and enjoy them that much more. Surely an excellent compromise.

    I’d also like to point out that it’s the MalachHaMovies that’s being nasty, not me.

  12. Q says:

    Pesach programs are not about celebrating Yetzias Mitsrayim or spiritual liberation, but the quality of the buffet and entertainment. Many Pesach programs offer 24×7 food service of every type of Pesach food available. The core message is communal self-debasement and decadence via engorgement of the body. We have become Romans at the Pesach vomitorium. Endless food, endless waste. At these program tons of good food is thrown out just because it is more convenient to dispose of it!

    We are three generations removed from the Holocaust, the ultimate starvation of the body and spirit perpetrated by reshaim. In the extreme opposite, we’re now doing it to ourselves! Shame on us!

    For those with the means, how about you make a Kiddush Hashem by celebrating Pesach at home with a hired personal chef and cleanup crew and go on a couple of private luxury vacations another time during the year?

  13. Orthonomics says:

    The parents should most certainly be the “program director[s]” for their children on Pesach and all year round. I was highly disturbed by advertising of “Baby Clubs” at Pesach. I will chalk my discomfort for “Kid Clubs” catering to the pre-school to pre-teen crowd to my own meshugasim. But, babies have a need to know and trust their care. Drs Brazelton and Greenspan have a section on this in a book called the “Irreducible Needs of Children” which looks at the need for long term caregivers (preferably parents, but if not people who will be in the lives of a baby and pre-schooler for the long run of things). Dropping babies off in care with unknown caregivers, even for the sake of shiurim, is very disconcerting in my opinion.

  14. Moishe Potemkin says:

    This was a well-written follow-up to a well-written initial piece. I do have one comment, though.

    What I presume the rabbi I quoted meant is that the external performance of mitzvos, without any inner connection to the mitzvah itself or the One Who commanded it, is the central problem.

    Perhaps what turned out (in the inference, not the implication) to be an inaccurate generalization of Pesach hotel guests applies more broadly as well. Rather than searching for the “greatest problem facing American Jewry,” I would submit that what is seen as a shallow connection to mitzvos actually represents diverse people in diverse circumstances, generally doing their individual best.

  15. Ari says:

    Ori –

    Anecdotally, my understanding is that it can make better economic sense for an Israeli chareidi to solicit American dollars than to hold down a job that requires basic skills. As you know, chareidim will generally not avail themselves of secular education, and will therefore offer little marketable skills to prospective employers.

    And, of course, manual or repetitive labor is perceived as more demeaning socially than soliciting charity. So, if it were a choice between becoming a clerk, or collecting money in support of a catered wedding for hundreds of people or a full-time learning program, the choice is “clear.”

  16. Dr. E says:

    As we have seen time and time again, bans are not the way to go. I am a bit uncomfortable with any suggestions of “banning” by Rabbanim, Askanim, or John Q. Public. We don’t need to legislate common sense or good taste. The only things that should be banned are child abuse, unethical behavior and Chillul Hashem.

    What should be obvious by now to everyone is that family situations are different, Pesach hotel programs are different, not to mention that not all of those who attend a given hotel derive the same experience when doing so. Each person and family has to make its own cheshbon of what makes sense for them–financially, spiritually, and socially. A hotel Pesach is what one makes of it and a home Pesach is what one makes of that. To paint with a broad brush and say that one cannot have a meaningful Pesach experience in a hotel is disengenuous. (Some of this sentiment may in fact be based on sour grapes or jealously for not being able to do so.) To say that every staying-home experience will be more meaningful than at a hotel is silly. I personally stay home, but do not fault or disparage anyone who goes away. I would expect the same treatment from those who go away towards me.

  17. MosheF says:

    A few observations
    1.Having been a Mashgiach at a hotel for Pesach 20 years ago (when I was young and stupid) I can tell you that general Kashrus issues as well as Bishul b’Shabbos are a major issue,much more than Chometz problems.Which is why I never did it again.
    2.My observation after this experience was that the only thing missing was wheels on the chairs so that people shouldn’t have to get up to go from the dining room to the tea room and back.
    3.Someone recently told me about a family that is well off but did not go away,rather they hired help to come to their home for the sedarim and seudos.Which seems to be a way to Yotzei L’fi Kol Hadeios
    4.A quick perusal of the list of scholars-in residence at hotels seems to indicate that some major Rabbanim as well as Mashpi’im on the American scene don’t see much of a problem.

    If you teach them(and feed them) they will come

  18. L Oberstein says:

    At the hotel I attended, the mashgiach made the waiters throw out hot dogs they had warmed up Shabbos afternoon for the Children’s Dinner.
    The biggest problem was that dinner was not served motzoei shabbos, the 8th night of Pesach, until 10:30 because they had to roast the duck and the prime rib after Shabbos. This delay upset the guests. “Oy, the Yiddishe tzores”.
    It seems the main iisue nowadays is to have “non gebrochts” , as if that were the ikar of Hilchos Pesach.
    What I enjoyed was meeting many very people from all over the world who had life stories that were very interesting. I could stay home but then I would have to say goodbye to my wife as she would go to the hotel .
    One thing I did put my foot down , I did not fly my Seminary daughter to Orlando from Israel. This year she had a new experience, cleaning and cooking for her married sister who just had a baby.

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