Dominican Kosher Paradise
Danny Levine and Charles Rosenay,
Club Kosher operators
For Chanukah Vacationers
HOOSING a different exotic location to entertain hundreds of vacationers can be a daunting task. Club Kosher, a Connecticut-based tour operator, has successfully solved all kinds of unlikely issues in its 20 years of operation.
We signed up for their annual Chanukah holiday and saw how partners Danny Levine and Charles Rosenay transformed an entire Caribbean resort into a kosher paradise for 300 guests. They took over the beautiful sandy beach resort at the Occidental Allegro Playa Grande in the Dominican Republic for 10 blissful balmy days.
Mashgichim supervise the kitchen
Making it kosher is no mean feat. The partners brought in a crew of eight mashgichim (kosher supervisors) to oversee a kitchen staff of 15 chefs and assistants.
You’d think with all that help they’d be able to come up with a decent cholent for the Sabbath. Cholent, as you may know, is a traditional staple of the Shabbat table, consisting of a mishmash of meat, potatoes, beans and barley that had been stewing over the flame all night.
“This was the first time the cooks had ever made a cholent,” Danny said. “But they assured us there’s no problem, they can do it. They have no barley here so it came out like a Dominican potato soup.”
I found the culinary experiment quite tasty.
Three containers of kosher food were sent from the U.S. but only two passed local Customs. Due to import restriction on American beef, officials decided to incinerate the kosher meat. Danny and his Spanish-speaking mashgiach ran from one office to the next to convince officials not to destroy the meat but ship it back to the States.
Native entertainers at one of the
For his next tour, a winter family vacation for 700 guests on January 18-25, Danny will bring kosher beef from Argentina.
The next holiday tour will be a 10-day Passover vacation at the ultra-luxurious Gran Melia Beach & Spa Resort in Cancun, Mexico. For information call toll free 866 KOSHER 2 or visit www.ClubKosher.com.
Club Kosher is a division of International Tours & Events based in Orange, Connecticut.
Danny and Charles organize trips all over the world. Every August they have a Magical Mystery Tour, taking Beatles fans to explore appropriate music sites in England and Europe. Last November the Discovery Channel aired a documentary on this trip.
“We also operate a Dracula tour to Transylvania,” Danny said. We said we’ll pass on that one – we give at the office.
What is absolutely wonderful about Club Kosher is that it is so family oriented. While the adults have a myriad of activities to choose during the day—tennis, nature walk, Spanish lessons, ping-pong, water aerobics, beach volleyball, pool volleyball, basketball, facial makeovers, dancing and intellectual lectures—the children are entertained in a special area called Kids Club.
Playa Grande beach is utterly
unspoiled and wonderfully pristine
The open bar proved to be a popular hangout. The drinks were flowing freely all day and night. Unlimited free drinks!
Every night the outdoor stage was bustling with native entertainers—dancers, singers and a flame eater.
Charles proved to be a superb emcee, especially with the kids. He got everyone on stage to carry on like true troupers. He organized singalongs and talent shows that were highly enjoyable. The energy was contagious. Even I clapped and stomped to the rhythm.
Of course you may wish to spend a day or two visiting the surrounding countryside. Six of us decided to share a comfortable taxi van to Sosua.
The one-hour ride took us through the neighboring town of Rio San Juan, then on to busy Gaspar Hernandez, and bustling Cabarete where the kite-surfing beach is a popular tourist attraction.
On the terrace of Sosua Bay Hotel with
Victorian House next door
In Sosua the synagogue is open to visitors, but used for services only once a month. After all, there are only 10 Jewish families remaining in the area.
Jews settled here in 1940 at the invitation of the Dominican government, the only one of 32 allied countries to welcome Jewish immigrants from Nazi Europe. The president, Generalissimo Raphael Trujillo, donated 24,000 acres of agricultural land to resettle the immigrants. Most left in the ‘60s for other occupations.
The Jewish Museum, next to the synagogue, has exhibits showing how Jews came and prospered.
We also toured the magnificent Sosua Bay Hotel and its sister boutique hotel, Victorian House, opened a year ago. Owned by Starz Resorts of Santo Domingo, both hotels are fully booked. See www.starzresorts.com.
The 100-year-old Victorian House, newly restored, is the original office where the Jewish refugees were processed as they arrived from Germany and Poland in 1940.
Our friendly driver stayed with us for four hours as we explored Sosua, bringing us back at dusk in time for dinner. Total cost for the taxi was $55. What a bargain!