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Apr 22, 2008 04:25 PM

Pesach in a hotel - worth it?

i have one question. is it really worth it?

if you have a family of six, with airfare it can cost about $15-20,000. i just dont understand why someone would spend that much money, to be in a hotel, with a couple hundred strangers, having no privacy.

one of the highlights of our seder is after the meal, chilling out on the couch until 10 minutes before chatzos and eating the afikomen. theres no place to chill in a hotel.

and i dont want to hear anyone say that its the food that makes it worth it. believe me i know how good the food is. but you can hire a private chef, and waiters and busboys for your house for a week and get the same amount of food and it would cost 5-10K.


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  1. The problem is as follows. Pesach is a very difficult holiday. There are apparently a lot of very affluent Jewish people that don't want to go through the grueling preparations that is making pesach. To make it even worse, they probably had their mother and/or grandmother exaggerate what they had to go through to make pesach (you know like the proverbial "when I was your age I had to walk a mile in the snow with holes in my shoes to get to school”). It is getting to the point that there is a new generation of Jews that have an abridged version of the laws of pesach -

    (1) Take suitcases from attic.
    (2) Clean it thoroughly checking for chometz.
    (3) Check pockets in your clothing for chometz.
    (4) Have a blast!

    The caterers have made it such that the only option that one has are centered on “gourmet” “luxurious” “5 star”. I do not see any services being advertised for personal chefs coming to your house to make pesach. What would make more sense is to have pesach options centered around smaller motels, like Holliday Inn, Howard Johnson’s. Clean places that have large rooms that could be used as a dinning room and shul and a nice lobby for people to socialize. THAT’S IT, nothing more, nothing less. Another option could be to have your local shul or restaurant offer an inclusive pesach option that offers all meals buffet style. This way all you need at home is some nosh.

    4 Replies
    1. re: MartyB

      This is a real problem - if you go to a hotel every year, the next generation grows up without knowing how to make Pesach at home. First, what happens when they can't afford to go away? And even if that never happens, the knowledge of how Pesach is made is an important part of the experience.

      But one doesn't have to have this experience every year. One can go to a hotel every other year, or just when the kids are very young, too young to help and to learn; once they are old enough one can make Pesach at home every other year, so they have the learning experience but one still saves on the work in the years one goes away.

      1. re: zsero

        what do they do? they do what every ba'al teshuva does, they learn how to do it from scratch. they learn the halachos, the sweat and toil. and i respect them immensly for that.

      2. re: MartyB

        we dont see options for it, but i dont think it would take more than an hour to find a chef. call up any chef school in NY, and they have a frum student who is DYING to do this to make some money. i have friends in baltimore who do this every year rather than going to a hotel, and trust me, they can afford the $50,000 it would cost them to bring their family to a hotel, with 11 kids and 4 grandparents. but they dont want to because its not like home. and a smaller hotel like a holiday inn, will make it cheaper, but it is still not home.

        1. re: kiddush hopper

          Any idea how much it would cost for, say, a family of 5? (A wild ball park figure would do nicely).

      3. no place to chill? I'm chillin at a hotel right now!

        5 Replies
        1. re: tomby

          during the meal by your seder, were you able to relax and unwind on a comfy couch, before having to go eat the afikoman?

          1. re: kiddush hopper

            Having just returned from spending the first days at a hotel in the Catskills, let me tell you that it's no picnic. Our family went because it was the only practical way my in-laws could have their grandchildren around for the seder. The food was mediocre at best, the hotel is a dump and trying to run your own seder amid the din of a huge dining room is awful. On the plus side, we had sunny weather and I had a nice bottle of Louis Royer VSOP Cognac.

              1. re: MartyB

                $4,500+ for a family of 5 for the first days. Not inexpensive at all.

            1. re: kiddush hopper

              absolutely! lots of couches, lounges, places to hide afikomen etc and for the kids to sleep during the seder! Has your experience been different? Maybe because I've gone to smaller programs (vs say what did it used to be 2000+ at the Fountainebleau? Prices ranges from $5000+ person to $1800 person.I would say in my limited experience there can be big differences in quality and quantity of food and service, and not 100% price related.

          2. Chai Lifeline had a concert tonight at the Rye Town Hilton. The entertainment was the seven year old pianist/composer Ethan Bortnick . After the concert we all went to the tea room for an obscene amount of chocolates, cakes, cookies and ice cream. I, having no will power what-so-ever, ate like a pig. My brother in law is staying at the hotel for pesach said that it is like this every day and proceeded to tell me how his suit, which closed before yom tov, now doesn't close. So to answer your original post "is it worth it" I must answer, no.

            19 Replies
            1. re: MartyB

              I've never been, but I have heard people complain about conducting a Seder in a hotel dining room with acoustic ceiling tiles and flourescent lighting. Not very heimisch! I am tempted by the ads that promise learning opportunities such as shiurim. This would make it worth it for me. On the other hand, I have heard that some of the shiurim are dumbed down, and I have noticed that it is difficult to get the organizers to commit as to the actual number of shiurim that will be presented.

              1. re: Dovid

                What are needed are smaller programs, not these programs in huge resorts. I went last night to a concert at the Rye Town Hilton, the dining room appeared full with a strange mix of people, mostly senior citizens. You could not go to the dining room without passing vendors selling women’s hats, men’s shirts and ties, custom picture frames and costume jewelry. My nieces, who are there for pesach, said that they were bored and will be join us at the Stamford Hilton tonight for the Jewish Boys Concert. A smaller program would be more dignified with a more uniform set of people. I can tell you that I am not at a loss of what to do over pesach.

                1. re: MartyB

                  Just got back from the Stamford Hilton (Gateways program) to see the Yeshiva Boys Choir. I must admit that the crowd there was vastly improved over the crowd at the Rye Town Hilton. Much younger, a nice frum crowd. Way too much cake, cookies, chocolates - again. I overdid it - again. Sigh, back to Atkins after yom tov. I will probably sign up for their Shavuot program though, if their price is not too obscene, after all, how much can they rip you off for two days (I may have to "eat" my words). My daughter went to the Gateways program last year for Shavuot and thoroughly enjoyed the shiurim, stayed up all night!

                  1. re: MartyB

                    here's the info I got from gateways about Shavous retreat Sun - weds.
                    Hudson Valley Resort in NY and there are a few types of rooms available. The most recently renovated and most centrally located rooms are $ 850 per person before service and gratuities. The largest rooms are the elms rooms and they are $750 per person. Then we have smaller rooms at $700 per person or $650. The $650 room just has one queen size bed and cannot fit a rollaway but the others all have either a king size bed or two doubles and can fit rollaways if needed.

                    The price for kids is $ 3-13 yr $350 each no matter which room and under 3 is $100.

                    Day camp is $9 per day.

                    1. re: berel

                      "service and gratuities" I hope it is not 25%. You said Sun-Wed, can one arrive Sunday morning or is it more like Sunday evening, right before yom tov. It would be nice to arrive early to make use of the facilities.

                      I will definitely send my daughters there, since my middle daughter had such a nice time last year, she is into shiurim, always traveling to attend them. As to me and my wife, I freely admit to have no will power (this pesach was a disaster - it will take me weeks on Atkins to lose what I gained) what disturbed me was the way my daughter described the orgy of food that went on over yom tov last year - from their own web site ->
                      " As usual, study is always accompanied by gourmet meals, Viennese tables and a 24-hour tearoom" - sigh.

                      1. re: MartyB

                        you can arrive Saturday night if you want, but they probably won't let you check into a room untill after 2pm sunday. Actually arriving early is a great idea at the Hudson Valley spa. my first Shavous Gateways retreat was at the Hudson valley about 6 or 7 years ago and I was sorry I didn't come earlier and pay for the day at the spa.

                        last year we attended the Jewish heritage center Shavous retreat which was a lot cheaper and less crowded than the Gateways retreat.
                        we weren't disapointed and will probably attend it again this year

                        1. re: berel

                          Any info on the current Jewish heritage center Shavous program? I want a place that has lots of lectures and shiurim. I REALLY don't need (or want) the Viennese tables.

                          1. re: MartyB

                            there was definetly a lot less food at Heritage, but we certainly didn't starve. Gateways is 24/7 of food after food. Heritage has all night lectures too, Rabbi Milstein (of Aish Hatorah fame) and Rabbi Portnoy and there was another lecturer who's name escapes me. Ok, it's not Rabbis Becher, Reitti, and Krohn but it's still Torah. I'm waiting for a phone call back from them to find out where and how much. Last year was at the Waterbury Garnd hotel which was great for me & the Mrs as our kids live in Waterbury and we went to them for Shabbos last year after Shavous. Even a brownout/blackout the first night of Shavous at the hotel last year didn't lessen the great Shavous we had.
                            I also found the smaller cround 400-500 people at heritage added to the intimacy of the whole holiday. something I found no longer exists in the Gateway program due to the large number of people attending

                            1. re: berel

                              WOW, Rabbi Yerachmiel Milstein. I went to his father (A"H) shul for many years when I lived in Canarsie, grew up with the Milstein family. My mother lives across the street from the shul that he founded in Flatbush when he moved there (that is the shul that my mother attends). Would love to see him again, its been too many years. Would love it if it is in Waterbury, my brother has a house there. Please keep me posted!

                              1. re: MartyB

                                Well, maybe with a whole family it's not cost effective to spend Pesach is a hotel. But if your kids have moved out of the house, or if you're retired, then it's something to consider.

                                My parents started going to an hotel for the holiday a few years back, and it's been great for them.

                                1. re: MartyB

                                  only info I got from the Heritage center so far is the retreat will be in Somerset NJ.

                                  your brother just has a house in Waterbury? does he live there?

                                  1. re: berel

                                    He lives in Passaic, during the week he stays in the Waterbury house. The company he works for relocated to Connecticut, so he bought a house in Waterbury that he uses during the week.

                                    1. re: MartyB

                                      I think I met him. Tell him I'm Mendy and Yisroel's father.

                                  2. re: MartyB

                                    ok, just got off the phone with them cost for sun-tues night FOR two people (TOTAL COST) is $850 (includes 20% for tips etc.). compare that to Gateways $750-800 PER PERSON for sun-weds morning.

                                    also keep in mind Hudson valley resort where Gateways retreat is held is over a 3 hour drive

                                    I think Somerset NJ is more like an hour away

                                    1. re: berel

                                      Very tempting! I will probably send my kids to Gateways (after all kids these days don't want to be seen with parents, espicially when they are in the shidduch scene) and my wife and I may go to the Jewish Heritage Center shavous program. My other option is to go to Israel for Shavous, since my son-in-law is garduating from Technion Medical School right after Shavous. Problem is the price of airfare is crazy and I just was in Israel in Feb.

                                      1. re: MartyB

                                        they just called me back from the Jewish heritage center. they apoligized, seems they quoted me last years rates.

                                        it's $399 (earlybird rate) pp plus 20% tips, taxes, whatever etc.

                                        so it's $958 for two and not $850
                                        I just made my reservation

                                        1. re: berel

                                          Earlybird rates are good till when?

                                          1. re: MartyB

                                            their phone # is

                                            (718) 575-3100

                                        2. re: MartyB

                                          I just got an email from Gateways saying there's only a few rooms left for the Shavous retreat. sheesh.

                  2. Worth is very subjective. Having just returned from my third year at a Pesach hotel, I can say that it all depends why you are going. I can honestly say that I enjoy the fact that my wife and mother in law get to relax and not have to be sleep deprived at the seders is worth something. My wife has a very stressful life alll year round and this is eight days of bliss for her. Worth also depends on what you are spending. The program that we went to for all three years is because the personal qualities of the owner. He is a true mensch and deserves to succeed. One need not go to Mexico, Puerto Rico or Spain to enjoy a hotel experience. There are plenty hotels withing driving range to reduce the cost of the vacations. I love socializing and meeting people from all walks of life. Where can I sit down with two chasisim of different sects and discuss politics? Are these social contacts purely situationa> Probably, but I have stayed in contact with some people I have met and that is quite rewarding. Is there overindulgence? Of course. Who doesn't gain weight over Pesach? I saw obese people piling food on their plates and I was saddened to think of the health issues they were aggrivating with the lack of any self-control. No one puts a gun to your head to eat and no one stops you from walking a few miles on Yom Tov or swimmming and using the hotel's fitness center. Going to a Pesach hotel is like sitting in great seat for a ballgame or a show. Once you have sat in the expensive setas it is hard to go back to the balcony or upper deck.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Foodtekie

                      People can choose to spend their money however they choose to; I just hope the people who spend the multiple thousands on going away for eight days of Pesach are not also complaining about how much they have to spend for yeshiva tuition, because it certainly sounds like what they pay for those mere eight days can pay for at least a good portion of a yearly tuition. I particularly hope they are not applying for yeshiva tuition scholarships based on need.

                    2. I guess my frustration is the lack of a spectrum of choices. Is there a market for people that would like to get away from the tummel that is Pesach without having to spend as much as it costs to buy a car? I went many years to a place called The Lakehouse Hotel, very reasonable, with a nice group of people that came back year after year. My kids enjoyed it immensely, they had no need for any facilities, they played among themselves, they had swings, basketball court, handball, baseball field, a nice lake with waterfall nearby that was a pleasant place to walk to after the meals on the shabbosim and yom tovim. The adults, well we had cars so it was off to the Middletown Mall, the Apollo Mall, Kiamesha Lanes for bowling. There were plenty of places to fish. The entertainment was comical, from the adult standpoint, but the kids had a blast. When the tea room opened up there was the mad rush to grab up the sponge cake, apples, grapes and oranges. Coffee was plentiful. They had a large lobby that was conducive for smoozing and socializing. No Viennese tables, no kidushim after davening – that’s what the dinning room is for.

                      It’s a shame airfare to Israel is so expensive; over there one can find great deals for Pesach. Two years ago I paid for my married daughter, whose husband is studying at Technion, a grand total for Pesach at the Prima Kings in Jerusalem (across the street from the Sheraton Plaza), half board, for herself, her husband and my granddaughter $1,100 complete! Was Avraham Fried there? No, Was Shwekey there? No. Lipa? No. 18 hole golf course? No. So what!

                      When I wanted to have pure unadulterated fun, guess what I did, I went to Disney World with my family. If I wanted to stuff my face with food, I would arrive early at weddings and attack the shmorgesborg. I do not need to have it all in a weeks time span at absurd prices.