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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 http://www.chailifeline.org/events/so... . 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.

                      1. Any programs around the tri-state area for someone who wants to escape from the pesach cleaning and cooking but has no need for the opulence that the current crop of programs are offering? There has got to be a segment of the population out there that would trade in Yaakov Shwekey and Avraham Fried for lower cost. Maybe someone does not have a need for “superb fitness centers with saunas and steam baths” and could do without “Lavish buffets”. I personally don’t need a 36 hole championship golf course (or even 18 hole). I certainly don’t need poolside BBQs. I wouldn’t mind a tea room for midday snacks but don’t need it 24 hours.

                        I certainly have no problems with the budget busting programs but how come not many modest ones? I wouldn’t mind a program based on what they have in Israel. A hotel/motel that serves (tasty) kosher for pesach food and a minyan if one is not available nearby. Nothing more, nothing less.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MartyB

                          I second this request. All I really want is food. It's why I posted asking for Kosher food in NYC (see here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/675975 -- I'm still looking, by the way).

                          I don't need to get away, but if getting away means I can get good meals served, then maybe I'm up for that. I'd love to hear if there are similar programs or ways to get the food delivered to me.

                        2. I'm a Jewish woman that has made Pesach in my home for the last five years. I love Pesach at home. There is really nothing like it, and as far as I'm concerned, it's worth all of the effort. Last year I went to a hotel for the last days of Pesach and, while the food was lavish and the waiter/maid service a nice break from the usual routine, I would have rathered stayed home. The experience of sitting around your own table, surrounded only by family and close friends; the comfort of coming to the table when you want - and not when the caterer dictates it; going to bed when you want, waking up when you want, and getting dressed as you want - I love being home and do not think that I will be repeating the hotel experience.

                          1. I'd venture a guess that about 1% of Jews who observe Pesach go to hotel programs (certainly not much more than that), so it's clearly not for everyone. We have not yet tried it, but there's an obvious appeal to a turnkey Pesach, especially in a nice location.

                            27 Replies
                            1. re: ferret

                              Maybe precisely because of the extremely high cost of the current offerings. If there were more modest programs maybe the numbers would be higher.

                              In 2006 when my daughter and son-in-law were studying in Israel, I paid for them to stay at the Pima Kings, half board, for pesach at the cost of $1,300 total, two adults and an infant. This is a decent hotel in Jerusalem next to the Great Synagogue and the Sheraton Plaza. All that you had was a hotel and food - no poolside BBQs no magicians or jugglers, no golf courses. Now that I think about it, when I went to Israel for pesach, I stayed at the Sheraton Plaza, again, no Yisroel Willinger, no horseback riding, just great food.

                              1. re: MartyB

                                Everybody wants a bargain, but the realities of putting these events together (Kosher + Pesach + Remote Location) doesn't really allow for bargains. In any case, the vast majority of persons observe at home. My point is that, price aside, hotel programs are not for everyone, so I'm not sure why people are questioning why those who choose to pay go to hotels.

                                1. re: ferret

                                  I am not asking for a bargain, just not to have to pay for something that I do not need.

                                  This is the same thing if I walk into a store looking for a $10 shovel and the salesman wants to sell me a $3,000 riding snow blower. Now is the snow blower worth the 3 grand, could be, but that is not what I want.

                                  My question was if there is a market for people who simply want a place to escape from the cleaning/cooking of pesach without turning it into a grand vacation getaway.

                                  1. re: MartyB

                                    But you are asking for a bargain. You want a program that will give you accommodations and meals for over a week at a very low cost. That's not an easy thing to do.
                                    A normal convention crowd can occupy a hotel for a week and get a decent discount because the hotel knows it will get bar, restaurant and honor bar business in addition to use of amenities. Try to convince a hotel to give you a deal for 8 days when they aren't going to make a penny on any other service. Add to that the costs of schlepping kosher meat and fish, wines, produce, snacks, beverages,etc. Not to mention setting up a Kosher kitchen with enough utensils, serving pieces, etc. And don't skimp on the food. And make sure there are options at every meal because this person's kid won't eat _____ and that one won't eat ______. Food costs can kill you - and remember, the hotel isn't going to sell a scrap of food or drink, so they're going to tax everything or they'll want to get revenues from other services which are then passed on to you.

                                    Then try to charge $2,000 per person without offering a single amenity or activity and tel people they'll have to find ways to entertain themselves for a week.

                                    You're basically creating a cruise on dry land, it costs plenty to do that.

                                    1. re: ferret

                                      no, thats not what hes asking, hes asking for someone to put together a program that doesnt have all the added frills we dont all need, we want the food, we want the accomadations, ansd we know were not going to pay 10 bucks for them, but we also dont want to have to be paying for shwekey or everyone elses kids babysitting or whoever is the entertainer du jour

                                      1. re: shoelace

                                        I know exactly what he's asking, but he'll never find someone to give it to him because the realities of putting a program together do not fit in with a "bare bones" arrangement. The best way to get that done is to Kasher an existing location that would not otherwise be used. In the Midwest we have the Perlstein Center, which is a JCC facility in Wisconsin with rooms and dining facilities. Conceivably someone could put together a food-only program there and shave costs. However, anyone doing a hotel program has to do an all-or-nothing for the reasons I outlined.

                                        1. re: ferret

                                          It seems to me, both from this discussion, as well as others on this board, is that some people don't understand that there are costs associated with food that are not the costs of the food itself. Restaurants have rent to pay, electricity costs, costs of dishes, and napkins, and a thousand other things (well, figuratively, at least), as well as the salaries of the staff and some profit, because they are not non-profit agencies. If you buy a pizza, you can't simply add up the costs of flour and sauce and cheese and expect that the slice or pie will cost that much. Similarly here. Ferret's answer of 1:02AM explains in precise terms why a non-Jewish/kosher hotel is not interested in simply renting out their rooms at low rates; there's nothing in it for them. There are the costs of kashering the treif kitchen and setting up two Pesachdik kitchens (milchig and fleishig), the food, the mashgiachim,
                                          and much more.

                                          That said, I agree that the costs of these programs is far too high for my tastes. As I said above, it is amazing to me that frum families have money for this, especially when so many complain about the cost of yeshiva tuition.

                                          1. re: queenscook

                                            Like I said, it's for about 1% of the population. Don't get me wrong, if I had a sudden windfall I'd probably go in a heartbeat, but it's neither meant for everyone nor does it appeal to everyone.

                                            It's also a rare opportunity to take a vacation in a nice location where you don't have to worry about what or where to eat. It's definitely a treat to have 3 meals (and infinite snacks) available.

                                            1. re: queenscook

                                              Queenscook: I can not speak for everyone who goes away to a hotel for Pesach, but as someone who only started going away a few years ago, going to a hotel for Pesach has its pluses and minuses. If you ever sat in orchestra seats for a show or in First Class on an airplane, it is hard to go back to the balcony or coach sections. As for the socio-economics of those that attend, all I can say is that if there are 700 guests at a hotel, there are seven hundred stories. Are there hypocritical parasites, that have the audacity to apply for financial aid and go away for Pesach? Yes, there are. Are there many young and not so young couples, who truly believe that it is their g-d given right to milk their parents for a free Pesach hotel vacation? Yes, there are. But there are also families where one spouse or both spouses are baalei teshuva and they do not have family to go to for the chag. How about the family whose marriage is hanging by a thread from falling apart and not having to prepare for Peasach is one way the spouses try to keep things together. How about elderly people who do not have the strength physically and emotionally to make Pesach and do not have children nearby or whose children are ungrateful and do not think of inviting their parents for the chag? If you see a couple or a family at a hotel for Pesach that you know can't afford it, did you know that the wife may be undergoing treatment for breast cancer and this was one way for the family to help her on Yom Tov? Or the couple who lost their child several months back for whatever reason and are dealing with their loss by going away for Pesach instead of allowing depression / Yetzer Horah destroy their Yom Tov? My point is that not every one you meet is a parasite,bent on cheating their local yeshiva while enjoying the luxury of a Pesach hotel vacation. Is it a luxury? You bet.

                                              1. re: Foodtekie

                                                Your point is well taken. All the more reason for my question. Imagine all those scenarios that you have painted of people that need to go away. The family whose marriage is hanging by a thread or elderly people who do not have the strength physically and emotionally to make Pesach or the family whose wife may be undergoing treatment for breast cancer, but can't because all the programs are bloated with unnecessary add-ons at 5 star locations that inflate the price to the point that it becomes unaffordable. I have no problems with the opulent programs but where are the lower cost options?

                                                In Israel check out the prices by querying the dates 3/28 – 4/6 on http://www.ilbooking.com/itc/hotelQue...

                                                Results for two hotels are summerized below. Unfortunately the cost of the airline ticket makes the programs not a bargain anymore.

                                                Jerusalem Gate Standard (Jerusalem)
                                                Price from: 29-Mar-10 To: 06-Apr-10 In USD
                                                Per Person Per Day
                                                Description 29/03 30/03 31/03 01/04 02/04 03/04 04/04 05/04 06/04
                                                Bed & Breakfast Included
                                                Half Board 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00
                                                Double 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00 180.00
                                                Total: 1440.00 + 480 for the Half Board (Dinner) = $1920 for 2

                                                Metropolitan Standard (Tel Aviv
                                                )Price from: 29-Mar-10 To: 06-Apr-10 In USD
                                                Per Person Per Day
                                                Description 29/03 30/03 31/03 01/04 02/04 03/04 04/04 05/04 06/04
                                                Bed & Breakfast Included
                                                Half Board 21.00 21.00 21.00 21.00 38.00 38.00 21.00 21.00 21.00
                                                Double 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00 150.00

                                                Total: 1200.00 + 7*21*2 + 2*38*2 = 1200 + 446 (for Half Board)= $1646 for 2

                                                1. re: MartyB

                                                  It's an unrealistic comparison to US programs. The hotels you list in Israel are Kosher to begin with and they make money by attracting guests at Pesach. That's simply not possible here.

                                                  1. re: ferret

                                                    I look at it as follows. A $2500 pesach program = $312/pp/pd (This assumes no taxes, some programs add as much as 25% to price). I just randomly checked out Holliday Inn Parsippany, NJ for 3/28-4/6 for $108.74/pd or $54/pp/pd (Outdoor Pool & Health/Fitness Center On-Site) so we are looking at a $254/pp/pd spread. If I am looking a venue consisting of staying at the Holliday Inn with say 100 couples would I be able to get a caterer to supply food for the 8 days at significantly less than $300/pp/pd if the room component is $50/pp/pd? I wouldn't mind food buffet style so food can be prepared off site and warmed up at location.

                                                    1. re: MartyB

                                                      As I posted above, the Holiday Inn gives you a deal to get you in the door with the expectation that you will buy their food/liquor. They won't give you the same deal if you want to take over their facility and then cut them out on the food service end. They aren't running a charity.

                                                      1. re: ferret

                                                        The price that I quoted for the Holliday Inn wasn't a special price. This was a real live price gotten by their on-line reservation system. The facility actually has three event rooms having capacity of 200, 100, 100 people (banquet style seating). I am sure they would work with you if you can fill it up and use their event rooms daily. Again I have no idea what these costs would be, but if The Sands and Schick catering can give you a wedding for $50/pp (buffet & meal & hall) a buffet style modest offering at a Holliday Inn could be had for a lot less pp.


                                                        1. re: MartyB

                                                          Marty, Marty, Marty, this will be my last word on this topic, but here goes. The price they quote is based on the assumption that they're making money on the other things. You can't just go in and say, "I'm booking 100 rooms at the online price and I want to bring all my own food and liquor." You need to coordinate everything with the facility, storage, food prep/warming, use of banquet rooms, service. Where are you going to store the dishes? Where are you going to clean the dishes? How are you going to differentiate between milchig/fleishig? How do you assure that guests aren't bringing chametz into your Pesachdik areas if you aren't going to provide snacks all day (are you going to screen everyone to make sure they have the same level of observance?). As I pointed out earlier, what are you going to do when someone says they don't like what you have for a given meal or their kids won't eat what's being served? When people are paying for food, be it $30 or $300, their expectations will likely exceed reality.

                                                          Try this exercise. Walk into a Lexus dealership and say you want to buy a car, but you don't need the leather seats. And you can live without a good sound system. And you don't need a sunroof. And you don't need a dual-zone heating system. Assume there was a way to strip off items that you may perceive as superfluous and he sold you the car for less than half the original price. Now try to sell it to someone else. That's what you're facing. You may be completely fine compromising on everything, but finding a couple hundred people who accept your compromise as satisfactory for the money that they're paying, well, that's another story.

                                                      2. re: MartyB

                                                        Considering that a restaurant will charge $100+/person for a sedar and you are taking 3 meals a day I think you will be hard pressed to find all the food for $250/day and then you need to factor in profit for the organizer.

                                                        1. re: avitrek

                                                          The seder is only two meals. I don't need lunch (In Israel I usually get the half board option). Over pesach, the Inbal Hotel is charging $54/pp for half board (dinner) which I can assure you is an overkill from what I am proposing. The Metropolitan in TelAviv is charging $21/pp/pd. I wish a caterer would chime in as to what a modest buffet style (plastic plates are just fine) two meal (breakfast dinner) program would run.

                                                          1. re: MartyB

                                                            The Israel hotels already have kosher dairy and meat kitchens and are required by the rabbanut to kasher the kitchens. They also have cheaper and easier access to kosher food. Food prices in general are cheaper in Israel so why would you compare Pesach prices and expect them to be comparable? The Israeli hotels will also get that extra revenue that ferret keeps mentioning that you keep ignoring. Finally, the Israeli hotels are one company not two companies both looking to make a profit. And on top of all of that half board isn't realistic in the US. When you take half board in Jerusalem you go out and buy lunch. Where are you going to get lunch in Parsippany? Don't say breakfast and dinner is enough because that means people will try and take breakfast food for lunch and suddenly you need to charge more to cover the extra breakfast food.

                                                            And I can't believe you really just tried to compare a catering price during the year to pesach prices?

                                                            1. re: avitrek

                                                              Not sure why I'm reminded of this but years ago I did a job for a friend and presented her with a heavily discounted bill (even less than I had estimated - and that she agreed to). She called and said it was too much, even more than the other guy. I asked "what other guy?" and she said "the guy who told me he couldn't do it" to which I replied "if I wasn't doing it I would have also given you a better price."

                                                              1. re: avitrek

                                                                Let me then ask another question. If I were to go to say, Brachs or Gourmet Glatt, and buy all my food from their takeout section over pesach, would that run me closer to $250 per day per person or more like $50-$100 (or maybe even less).

                                                                I just assumed a caterer by virtue of them being able to purchase and prepare in volume would be able to give a better deal than buying retail at a takout section.

                                                                1. re: MartyB

                                                                  Marty B:
                                                                  The people who do Pesach programs are in the business for one reason: to make money. They go through all the preparation and scheduling and logistics many months beforehand, to endeavor to assure you that you will have a kosher, pleasant experience. If you feel that the prices are too high, you have the choice not to go. By focusing only on the cost of food and not taking into account that there are sundry other expenses like the kashering, mashgichim, chefs, dishwashers etc., you realize that it is more than just the cost of food. Also, what makes you think that the food suppliers are reducing their prices to the tour operator for food? Ever hear of the kosher monopoly? If you want a stripped down version of Pesach hotel, you are not going to find it. Just because you would not mind eating on plastic plates and cutlery does not mean that others are so inclined. There is no incentive for the proprietor to strip their product down when it will take him/her the same amount of effort to put out a lavish spread versus a budget spread. There is not enough volume that can make up the lost profit. Ferret and Avitrek make salient, concise points in their posts. The Lakehouse and Washington Hotels are not around because they could make more money selling off the real estate than running a kosher hotel. It happened in the Borscht Belt and it happened in Miami Beach.
                                                                  My suggestion is take all of the money that you saved by shopping at Pic- N-Pay and go to Israel or pay someone to shop, clean and cook for you. It may end being cheaper than going to a local hotel.

                                                                  1. re: Foodtekie


                                                                    Stop living like its 1978. Times have changed prices have changed. Just think about the logistics of making Pesach in hotels for the Caterers. Much of the food eaten on Pesach in hotels has been cooked a few months before and has been frozen. Does anyone really think that if they are cooking 1500 meals a day its all fresh? That means the caterer has to stop some of his jobs in Feb and March just to get Pesach out of the way, so that is an extra expense.

                                                                    They have to get all the food there as well. Remember, Gas is not 60 cents a gallon. LIke all other goods, food costs money to transport. Food prices going up for Pesach is a given as was mentioned before. And paper plates Martyb....Really? For one it is still Yom Tov so lets have some class, but think about the costs of that as well. 500 people at a program, 3 meals a day.....each person averages 2-3 plates at buffets sometimes.........not that cost effective in the end.
                                                                    You don't want to cook but want to be served? Rent a chef?

                                            2. re: ferret

                                              The Washington Hotel in Belle Harbor NY used to have a pesach program. Does anyone know how much they charged - or if going to them saved one money compared to the more opulant venues? I have seen in another Chowhound post this hotel mentioned as an affordable wedding choice. A shame they closed.

                                              I went to a place a long time ago called The Lakehouse Hotel. Not too much as far as facilities and entertainment. My kids just loved it. We were 6 people in two rooms and paid $2,000. As I said, a long time ago. I did notice that they renovated it (thanks to a fire) and were open last summer. I wonder if they will be opened for pesach and how much they will charge. It will probably be a chassidish crowd - this doesn't bother me, even though I am MO.

                                              1. re: MartyB

                                                I have spent a lot of time reading this thread and feel your pain and understand your wants and needs.
                                                Like you, I am not interested in a 'program' I want food and facilities, we can entertain ourselves.
                                                Growing up we went to the Catskills every year for Pesach. It gave the entire extended family a chance to vacation together, without anyone becoming a housekeeper/cook/maid for the out of town family members.

                                                I used to make Pesach every year because my ex-wife also grew up going to hotels and couldn't be bothered. One year I shattered my leg in early March and had to order all the food from the local kosher caterer.

                                                My current wife is not very observant and her kids would not fit in with the crowd at KFP programs.

                                                I have solved our problem by renting a timeshare (actually more than one unit) in Hyannis, MA. I get a 2 Bedroom sleep 6 for about $800/wk I go up early with my Brother-in-law and kasher the kitchens. We order all the cooked food for the week from our kosher caterer (runs about $50/day pp for the 12 of us). We buy all the cold food/junk food/soda/ice cream ourselves.
                                                We made an initial investment in inexpensive plates, pots/pans and cutlery (less than $500).
                                                I arrange for off-duty housekeeping staff to heat/serve/clear S'dorim, lunches and dinners.
                                                The facility has an indoor pool and fitness room. There are local attractions to keep the kids busy and shopping. The Chabad shul is just down the block-3 minute walk.
                                                We have done this for 4 years already and cost works out top be about $750 pp.

                                                Is it fancy, no. Does it meet our need to get away and clebrate as a family yes.

                                                To save money, you need to be creative. If you want everything done for you, you need to pay through the nose and expect to be disappointed.

                                                Unfortunately, we can't turn back the clock 50 years when there were 30+ hotels in the Catskills competing for our Pesach business at reasonable prices.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  Good option. Out of curiosity, what caterer do you use?

                                                  1. re: tamarw

                                                    im curious abt the caterer as well, bc im all abt the timeshare, for something like this, this all seems like a great idea

                                                    1. re: shoelace

                                                      In the past we have used Abel Caterers in Woodbridge (New Haven), CT. This year my B-I-L is in charge of food and will be using some one in the Boston area. (We do not care about Glatt).

                                    2. I guess I am asking a multitude of questions.

                                      Would the cost of a program be significantly lower if the venue is more modest ex a nice Holliday Inn as opposed to a Hyatt? The program should also forgo the big name entertainment. The food offering should be tasty without being wasteful.

                                      If the startup costs and catering profit of the proposed modest program does not result in a significant cost savings then we stop here.

                                      My next question would be – is there a market for such a program? If the demand is not there then again stop.

                                      The next question that needs answering is if there are enough caters around. Years ago there were many Catskill programs around because lots of Jews went away for the summer and needed kosher accommodations, Now it has dwindled to the point that people go away for at most two weekends in the summer – nachmu and camp visiting day. There was once a well known caterer, The Glatt Boys who ran summer and holiday programs. I spoke to one of the Glatt Boys and he told me that it just doesn’t pay any more and I don’t see them advertise much lately.

                                      I have a feeling that here is where the problem lies. There is a rather small group of caters around that can handle an undertaking of this size so they logically decide to service the affluent sector where they can maximize their profits, which of course makes sense, hence the current state of affair. If there were more “hungry” capable caterers around then you would see more modest programs, again, assuming if the demand is there.

                                      Good old-fashioned economic principles at play here with a shortage in the supply side of the supply-demand equation.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MartyB

                                        Marty, It's time to start living in 2010, not 1960
                                        Years ago lots of NYC city Jews went to the Catskills because they were escaping small, un-airconditioned city apartments. You didn't raise your kids in the city and neither did I.

                                        Today, lots of NY area jews are more affluent, have access to JET travel 2.5 hours to SoFla or 3 hours from Brooklyn to the Catskills in a crowded car full of kids................

                                        When there were lots of Kosher year round places in the mountains, it was easy to kasher and make Pesach. The cooks and staff were in place, and the same purveyors supplied the food.

                                        Most caterers can't make the investment in plates, dishes, glassware, pots, pans to use for 500 people for one week a year.

                                        One reason that programs switch resorts each year, is that it is possible to convince a major hotel to introduce all of its new china, silver etc for the year on Pesach just after kashering the kitchen. But they won't do it year after.

                                        Many years ago, B'Nai B'rith held its international convention at the Las Vegas Hilton. The Hilton kashered the kitchens and used all brand new items that stayed in use after the Jews left. Two years later, the Hilton would not go through the same expense for another convention, as the utensils were not ready to be replaced.

                                        Even if you arranged for a program at a local Holiday Inn, the chances of getting a caterer to make the investment in equipment for 1 week's use are slim. The return is low and the prospects of year after year use even lower.