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Crowds are expected as Jewish families plan excursions over the Passover holiday


Jewish families are making plans to enjoy outings over chol hamoed — the days in between the first two and final two days of Passover — and owners of various attractions are preparing for the crowds.

“We get thousands more during Passover,” said Zev Oster, who runs West Maple Farm in Monsey, New York, which is home to many Hasidic families. “Our petting zoo and hayrides are the main attractions.”

Chol hamoed is Hebrew for “weekdays of the festival.” Chol also translates as “mundane.”

Hal Simon runs “open for Chol Hamoed” ads for his bike- and Rollerblade-rental business, Fortress Bikes, in Hurleyville, New York, in the Catskills. The area has a large Hasidic population in the summer, but Simon says he’s seeing “more year-round residents now than ever before.”

As long as the weather cooperates, we should be very busy,” he added. “So far the forecast is calling for warm springlike temperatures and no rain. I’m hoping to see many friends that I have not seen since before Labor Day. The scenery is very pretty this time of year. The lakes and streams along the trail are full from the snow and rain we had all winter. The birds are chirping and the eagles are soaring above.”

Packing in the fun Sunday and Monday

Just like on Shabbat, many observant Jews refrain from working, use of electronics and other activities on the first two and last two days of Passover, but with kids off from school, the four days in between are often a joyful time for family excursions. 

Because Shabbat falls during chol hamoed, and Tuesday’s activities end early when the last nights of Passover commence, “we really only have two days — Sunday and Monday — to pack in as much as we can,” said Rabbi Pinchas Taylor, a father of seven in Plantation, Florida. He expects to take the family on their annual outing to Lion Country Safari, a drive-through animal park in Loxahatchee that also has rides and other attractions. “It’s an easy family-friendly activity,” he said. Temperatures are forecast to be in the 80s, so a second-day outing might be an indoor air-conditioned activity like bowling or an arcade with go-karts. 

To observe Passover dietary restrictions, he said, “we bag up a bunch of stuff in a Ziploc bag — easy and transportable hard-boiled eggs, apples and carrots, matzo.” 

‘Kosher for Pesach’ for baseball fans

Popular destinations in New York City include zoos, the American Museum of Natural History and baseball stadiums. A Facebook group called Mets Fans in Israel posted that Citi Field in Queens, where the team plays, will have “kosher for Pesach” food for sale Sunday and Monday. And the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones will have a kosher for Passover concession when the team plays at Maimonides Park (named for Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center) in Coney Island on Sunday.

The Orthodox Union’s youth group, NCSY, is planning outings to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday with a concert and kosher food as part of the programming. 

NOLA Tours has just launched a Jewish history tour of New Orleans to coincide with the Passover break. “To be honest, it is a new tour for us,” said Katrina Horning, but she’s hoping it will be of interest to visitors. “It is surprising that we have so much Jewish history here. Everyone knows about our Catholic, French, and Spanish beginnings, but there were tons of contributions by our Jewish residents.”

Hersheypark in Pennsylvania is a popular destination for observant Jewish families in the fall, during Sukkot. This week, though, the park is only open through Sunday. 

Keeping it low-key

Chanie Kirschner, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, recalled that in 2020, during the pandemic, the Universal Orlando amusement park was so “desperate for people to come”  that visitors could re-use one-day passes for as many return trips as they wanted. So during Sukkot’s chol hamoed that year, “we went to the parks every day.”

For Passover this year, though, she’s visiting her sister in New Jersey with her four kids and chol hamoed will be decidedly more “low-key,” with trips to a botanical garden and a zoo. “We are not doing anything crazy,” she said via text, adding the emoji that shows a face laughing so hard that it’s crying.

The post Crowds are expected as Jewish families plan excursions over the Passover holiday appeared first on The Forward.

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