Don’t burn that cholent on a clothing iron
Don’t burn that cholent on a clothing iron…
Kosher vacationing then and now
By: Shachne Arye Rowner
Kosher vacationing has come a long way from what used to be acceptable and considered normal for Jewish families to get by with.
Our grandparents may have been able to vacation in the borscht-belt era hotels that dotted famous vacation regions of the likes of the Catskill mountains and Lakewood, NJ resort town of yesteryear way before the BMG yeshiva days, but those options are long gone, replaced by crowded developments, full neighborhoods and vibrant communities as the decades changed leaving few full-service vacation options for kosher conscious travelers.
So families had to make do… looking for non-kosher hotels that did or didn’t offer or have promised adjoining rooms, squeezing into motel rooms never intended for families of typical Jewish family size, and hoping the line for the one shower moved along quickly so you can compress three kids into a queen-size bed – and that they’d sleep through the night there.
And the kosher food situation? Well, let’s just say you would be lucky to find a hotel that has a fridge, or if you were really lucky, a fridge/microwave combo so you would have some form of a kitchen to whip up mediocre semi-frozen meals for the family while on the road.
If you didn’t have even those appliances – and I speak from personal experience traveling with my own family here – think coolers, ice buckets, or bathroom sinks filled with hotel machine-made or store-bought cubed ice as a way to keep milk, cheese, and hot dogs fresh in place of a fridge. It worked. Sometimes. If the cheese didn’t get too soggy. You get the idea.
For cooking, we prayed that the smoke alarms stayed firmly in the quiet position as we whipped up gourmet hot dogs, grilled cheeses in George Foreman grills, and sandwich makers in the hotel rooms, mostly with windows that didn’t open due to local fire codes.
In one instance, we even heated up our foil wrapped pans on the clothing iron in the room at a roadside motel. Yes, true story, and no, we did not burn the room down. (A cute tip we learned from the experience though: the iron, as most irons do, had an automatic safety shutoff if the iron isn’t moved for a few minutes, so if you choose to cook this way, be sure to shake the iron every few minutes…
Want to use the pool? Good luck finding it open when your family could swim privately.
There was a time that people were even able to stay in hotels for Shabbos, as doors used actual metal key locks, but today aside from electronic door locks, there are many more potential issues. Occupancy sensors that control temperature and lights, as well as other hidden technology in even basic hotel rooms make for much more complicated scenarios than you may expect for Sabbath observers. Just take a look at this article by the Star-K for reference.
Kosher cruises and Shabbos hotel getaway programs became much more of ‘a thing’ over the last few decades, but these bring their own sets of challenges for the kosher consumer as well.
As the world progressed, along came the likes of Homeaway, VRBO (Vacation rental by owner), and more recently Airbnb, where you had the options of renting a home for your vacation, in locations pretty much anywhere. And they brought a whole new set of comforts such as adequate sleeping space and bathrooms for even larger families. If you were lucky, you could even find a reasonably priced one in an area that you could potentially stay for Shabbos.
But that came along with a whole new set of challenges as well. Most vacation rental by owner properties will have an electronic door lock, allowing the owner to change access for new guests as well as track who’s coming and going and when. Many owners will install motion sensor light switches to save on electricity, and if you want shabbos food, don’t forget to take out the light bulb in the fridge!
Netillas Yadayim cups? Kiddush Cup? Challah board? Challah knife? Crockpot? Hot Plate? Kosher lamps for reading over Shabbos? Sure you can bring everything along, and you may even be able to kosher the kitchen and sink if you are willing to put in the effort, but is that really a vacation then?
And then came the pioneers that revolutionized the kosher vacation. In 2009, Shaya and Shifra Weinberger of North Miami Beach, Florida founded the first of its kind: Florida Kosher Villas – Kosher luxury vacation homes for rent within a vibrant frum community in sunny South Florida.
With everything you’d expect and more. Netillas Yadayim cups? Check. Kiddush Cup? Check. Challah board? Challah knife? Crockpot? Hot Plate? Check. Check. Check. Kosher lamps for reading over Shabbos? Find one in every room. Shabbos ready appliances, large dining rooms, bedroom and sleeping configurations perfectly suited for frum families are just the baseline.
Luxurious linens, plentiful towels, designer furnishings, kosher kitchens, and amenities you’d expect to find at bespoke hotels are a given. And that’s the inside of the home. Privacy fenced yards surround patios, in-ground pools, and even some with hot tubs.
Indeed, it was kosher vacationing re-defined. Over the past ten years, the available kosher vacation villas for rent portfolio has been expanded to include up-and-coming Jewish areas with vibrant frum communities in their own right including Hollywood, Boca Raton, and even Central Florida (think the Orlando area.)
Never ones to rest on the laurels when a good idea becomes a great reality, Florida Kosher Villas acquired Lakewood Hosts about three years ago, once again expanding its horizons and concierge teams to the fastest growing regional Jewish area in the Northeast, where a plethora of choice suites, apartments, homes, and mansions are available for rent throughout this burgeoning Jewish metropolis.
Were the Weinberger’s correct that there would be demand for their kosher vacation rentals? With over ten thousand satisfied customers over the last ten years and counting, the frum vacationer hasn’t just spoken – their actions have shouted from the rooftops: Gone are the days of schlepping, squashing, and improvising for what used to pass for a real vacation!
See for yourself what so many have already experienced: Find your Florida Kosher Villa or Lakewood Hosts Luxury Rental today.