Setting: The Ritz-Carlton hotel, San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 2005. My husband, Brett, and I were lying by the pool, enjoying the early evening breezes and thinking about what to have for dinner.
“Do you hear that?” Brett asked, pointing towards a terraced area to our right. A party was beginning on a second floor balcony tucked around a corner and just out of our sight line. We could make out some laughter mixed with the sound of silverware clinking on china. Then a cacophony of music floated across the courtyard and down towards the beach.
“It’s probably the same group that we heard last night,” I shrugged. “A big wedding or something.”
A mournful — yet surprisingly upbeat — whine of violin and clarinet in a minor key wafted along the shore.
It reminded us of somewhere we were not.
“Isn’t tonight the second night of Passover?” Brett asked.
It was, come to think of it.
And so, we sneaked over to take a look. Eavesdropping through the glass windows and into the taffeta-and-gilded ballroom off the pool area, we saw hundreds of people milling about, preparing to sit for dinner at long banquet tables. With the Klezmer band as our witness, we confirmed what we already felt in our hearts: this was one heck of a Passover seder. And we were missing it.
It turns out that, centuries after making it out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea on dry land, living in the desert for 40 years, and entering the Holy Land of Israel, Jews have continued to wander for Passover, just for the fun of it.
Apparently, this is not news to a good deal of modern orthodox Jews. Just ask the coordinators at Totally Jewish Tours (totallyjewishtours.com), your one stop, full-service, Glatt Kosher guide to traveling the globe for Passover.
This year, you can choose your preferred Pesach locale from several resorts in Florida (obviously, duh), like Boca or Palm Beach. Do you like to golf? Then maybe the Arizona Biltmore is for you, with its two 18-hole golf courses and an 18-hole putting course. As a bonus, this hotel boasts an authentic desert surround, in case you want to, you know, reenact part of the story of the Exodus or whatever. Feeling more adventurous in your religiousness? Then I’d go for Split, Croatia. And, if luxury is what your Passover is all about, then, by all means, do it in Capri, Italy. Stay at the Tiberio Palace, where the entire hotel will be ordained kosher for Passover. The website boasts, “Noted for its extraordinary natural beauty, splendid panoramic views, Blue Grotto, and warm climate, it is without doubt one of the most sought after destinations among jet-setters,” and – dare I add – gefilte fishermen.
If you happen to be a New Yorker who wants to stay local for the holiday but are tired of the same-old, same-old at your Aunt Ethel’s in Brooklyn, then I say head out for Mexicana.
Passover a la Mexicana.
You heard that right, my Hebraic compadres. Rosa Mexicano is hosting its 9th annual Passover a la Mexicana, offering Pesachdik-ish, Sephardic-inspired additions to the regular menu as a part of their “Flavors of Mexico” program for the week of April 18th.
Enjoy crisp corn tortillas filled with corned beef and cabbage, or the higadito de pollo para tacos, which, loosely translated, means chopped chicken livers. Perhaps you are more of a fan of lengua de res a la Veracruzana, a spin on traditional beef tongue. And what seder table would be complete without grandma’s caldo de pollo con bolitas? (Figure it out yourself, chicken soup lovers.)
Six years have gone by since that fateful night in San Juan. Six years of predictable Passovers at home, hiding the afikomen for our children, opening the door for Elijah, and letting my dad lead us out of Egypt quickly so as not to dry out the apricot chicken awaiting us in the oven.
But not this year. Oh no. This year, what my Passover needs is lots of sun and surf. My Passover needs a hot stone massage and several Pina Coladas mixed in with the occasional macaroon.
It just so happens that one of these Glatt Kosher tour groups is running a week-long Passover Party at a hotel I’d love to visit. Call it beshert. Call it stalking. Call it what you will. Sure, the tour group is completely sold out of spaces in their program, and sure, there’s no way my family and I would even qualify to be a part of such a group since we’d be snacking on bagels, pretzels and rice cakes between meals, arriving at the table with suspicious crumbs in the corners of our mouths. But I’ve seen their website, and now I’m kind of hungering for their famous all you can eat BBQ buffet and lavish tea room. Not to mention the renowned day camp and midnight dessert extravaganza.
Now all I need to do is convince Brett, overpay for airfare, get waxed, and totally bail on my extended family!
I may not be orthodox, but that doesn’t mean I won’t know a rockin’ seder when I crash it.
To paraphrase the Haggadah: Next year, in Israel. This year, perhaps, in Miami.