Should I Get Into the Short Term Kosher Vacation Rental Market?
It’s a question we get asked so often. People love what we’re doing. They watched the Latest Talks interview with our CEO, Shaya Weinberger.
Or they stayed with us for a Shabbos, over Pesach, or a Florida kosher getaway with their spouse. Or held an amazing Shabbos family reunion in one of our kosher rental mansions or unique kosher retreat properties (that can accommodate up to 114 guests!).
And people want to know if this is a business they should get into.
We’ll try to answer that question by asking you a few simple questions. The way you answer them, will help you make an informed decision.
Firstly, do you have a second property already that you are considering putting out to the short term vacation market?
If you answered yes, how much money are you carrying each month, including mortgage, insurance, utilities, landscaping, property maintenance?
If you answered no, can you afford to go for 6 months to a year without rental income, should you choose to now purchase a property?
Having a vacation rental, does not automatically equal profit. Often, owning a second home is a long-term proposition, only offering returns down the road when property values rise and you can sell, charge more for rent etc. Until that point, you may not even cover your monthly costs.
Market demand is also a factor. If you are in an area with high demand for vacation rentals, then the short term rental market can theoretically be a great investment. But if that demand is great now, what will it be in 6 months or a year from now?
Diversification also plays a major role in demand. Consider:
Our Florida kosher rental listings on the one hand, have very high occupancy rates and little gap time in the Winter season. Everyone wants to get out of the cold with their family or their spouse and enjoy sunny weather and a pool, while its snowing back home. But in the summertime, demand lessens.
On the other hand, our New York kosher rental listings, primarily in the upstate region, have a different demand cycle. In the summertime, many people are looking for a getaway from the city and its heat. But in the wintertime, demand is much lower.
LakewoodHosts.com runs on an entirely different plane, which isn’t necessarily seasonal. Being the fastest growing city in the US, Lakewood is a burgeoning construction boom town, with communities sprouting almost as fast they can. With marriage rates among frum Jews way up and above the secular world by miles, each new marriage needs somewhere frum to live, and more often than not, Lakewood and its surrounding environs is that place of choice in setting up a frum home.
That sets up the short term market in the Lakewood, NJ regions to be more a “need-to-be-near-my: son/daughter/grandchildren”, kind of demand, where the location is key to the success of the occupancy percentage and ultimate profitability.
But even in boom town, the model is only profitable up to a point, as saturating the market in a particular area, will only dilute the demand among the available short term rentals. And while that’s good for prospective guests as it drives pricing down and competition up, it isn’t good for any short term rental property owners, new, prospective, or existing.
There’s always a bit of calculated guessing, in deciding where that perfect location to set up an STR (short term rental) for the greatest ROI (return on investment) is.
And it isn’t all about revenues.
No matter where you own or buy a property, you will still have these regular costs to consider. Mortgage, property management, insurance, utilities, landscaping, property maintenance, regular pool and/or hot tub servicing are constants that must be paid, regardless of occupancy rates.
So, is it the right time for you to invest in the short term rental real estate market?
That depends on your individual situation:
- Do you have a second property already that you can rent out?
- Can you afford to go without rental income for 6 months to a year, should you choose to purchase a property now and need to do work to get the property to a rent-able state?
- Can you afford to upgrade/rehabilitate the home (if needed) to bring it up to a modern state?
- What is the demand like in your area?
- Are there other STR’s operating successfully in the neighborhood? (That could be either a good or bad indicator)
- Are there enough rentals right now to meet the demand?
- Are there too many STR’s for the demand?
- Is demand in the area trending upward? Downward?
- Would it be better to offer the property to the general marketplace, such as AirBnB or VRBO, where there is a broader audience?
- A property can cost tens of thousands to furnish and outfit. Do you have that money to put in?
- You will need approximately $2,000 for initial marketing materials (professional photography, descriptive writing, layouts etc) to bring your STR to the marketplace.
- Even when your rentals is ready and operational, can you afford this if a quiet spell leaves you with a no rental income for 6 months, if market conditions change?
- And finally, does it make more sense financially to rent out the property to a long term tenant, which typically is more stable income, but lower risk and less reward.
Unless you can adequately answer the above questions in a sure and confident way, we don’t suggest you purchase property anywhere as an investment for the short term rental market.
It is important to remember that the short term rental market is a highly competitive one. You need to be sure that you are making an informed decision and doing your due diligence before investing in this type of real estate. It’s also always good to have a ‘Plan B’ up your sleeve.
You should research the local market, understand the demand for short term rentals in your area, and determine if there is enough competition to make it worthwhile. You should also consider the costs associated with owning and operating a short term rental property, such as mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, and maintenance.
Finally, you should consider whether it makes more sense to rent out the property to a long-term tenant or to pursue the short term rental market.
Most of our owners are seasoned investors, have other diversified businesses so they’re not relying on the income from this investment as source of regular income, or those who can afford their second home even with all of the above considerations, and are it in for the long run.
If that sounds like you, feel free to complete a List-with-us request form, and we’ll review it to see if you and your property are a good fit for our company.
LuxuryKosherVillas.com has been at the forefront of the kosher vacation rental industry since 2009. Serving tens of owners, hundreds of vacation properties and tens of thousands of customers over 14+ years, there is no more experienced company in the industry.
The article above is intended as food for thought for those considering getting involved in this type of industry. It is NOT intended to serve as nor should it be considered investment advice, and you should always consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
So you went searching on Google for kosher vacation rentals. And came up with some interesting responses.
But you want a really kosher vacation rental. From someone who understands the nuances of what a frum family is looking for. Mezuzas on the doors. Eruv information. Shabbos-friendly appliances.
No motion sensors or occupancy sensors all over the place creating serious chillul Shabbos shailos.
No. You’re a lot smarter than that. Not just anyone with some good seo or paid google ads is going to take you for a ride with their version of kosher.
Here’s a humorous actual livechat we had with a company that came up when we searched for “kosher vacation rentals.”
They have great SEO, I’ll admit, which is how they target kosher consumers. Consumers beware, and we’ll let the conversation below speak for itself. Then, you decide.
This was the site we had the live chat on, with a nice dark-skinned young fellow, friendly enough, with a bushy afro hairstyle above his head in his headshot, named Shawn Parkour.
Actual Livechat Today:
Me: What’s kosher about your places? [Mon, Time 13:16]
Shawn Parkour: We have kosher kitchens [Mon, 13:16]
Me: In what way? What makes them kosher [Mon, Time 13:17]
Shawn Parkour: For how many people you are looking for and which dates ? (sic) [Mon, 13:17]
Me: What makes your kitchens kosher? [Mon, Time 13:18]
Me: Shawn, I’m not getting an answer here [Mon, Time 13:20]
Shawn Parkour: We have many regular Jewish groups who comes every year for holidays [Mon, 13:20]
Me: That doesn’t make the kitchen kosher [Mon, Time 13:20]
Me: Does anyone certify the kitchen as kosher? [Mon, Time 13:22]
Me: Are there kosher amenities? [Mon, Time 13:22]
Me: Do the ovens have sabbath mode? [Mon, Time 13:23]
Me: Does each have multiple sinks? [Mon, Time 13:23]
Me: Separate dishes? [Mon, Time 13:23]
Shawn Parkour: We do oven on self cleaning mode before nay (sic) Jewish group comes [Mon, Time 13:23]
Shawn Parkour:Yes we also provide separate dishes and bowels (sic) [Mon, Time 13:23]
Shawn Parkour: They also have multiple sink (sic) [Mon, Time 13:24]
Me: So my understanding is, you consider them kosher under those circumstances, but at any other time, any guest, including non-kosher ones, use the property, correct? (italics and underlining added to this post for emphasis) [Mon, Time 13:43]
Shawn Parkour: Yes [Mon, Time 13:44]
Shawn Parkour If you need any special arrangements we can do it for you [Mon, Time 13:44]
Me: Thanks, but I think we’re more comfortable in a truly kosher home [Mon, Time 13:44]
Shawn Parkour Sure. Thank you for showing interest in our property [Mon, Time 13:45]
So the truth comes out. Nothing kosher at all as the houses are only as kosher as the previous guests.
We dug a bit further into some links he sent us of his “supposedly” kosher vacation rentals. Here are the names of the latest guests that reviewed those “kosher” properties.
Actual Guest Name #1: Clay Simon
Actual Guest Name #2: Jake Paul
Actual Guest Name #3: Austin Taylor
Really now! We’re not making this up.
So you can leave your quest for finding that perfect vacation rental property to google. And end up with a friendly kosher vacation home from Shawn Parkour, who seems to know all the ins and outs of kashrus and what frum families need.
And don’t worry! Clay Simon, Jake Paul and Austin Taylor all ensured that your kitchen stayed kosher!
Or you can come to the one company with a world of experience operating the largest portfolio of managed kosher vacation villas, kosher vacation rentals, and kosher short-term properties for rent in the USA.
Owned and operated by frum heimish yidden, we know exactly what you’re looking for. And are exceedingly selective in who rents each kosher rental. All properties on our website are owned by frum yidden, managed by frum people, and have mezuzas, kosher kitchens, bedrooms properly set for Yiddishe couples, washing cups, kosher lamps, Shabbos needs and more, all figured out for you.
Every kosher vacation home is walk-able to shuls with year-round minyanim, eruv information is readily available and kosher shopping within a reasonable nearby distance.
Plattehs and crock pots for Shabbos, shabbos locks on doors, even privacy around pools – we’ve thought of everything to ensure that your kosher vacation needs are taken care of. By those who know what’s important to you.
Because there’s a difference smart kosher vacationers know.
You only need to google one thing: LuxuryKosherVillas.com
On Preventing Vacation Rental Neighbor Complaints in the First Place
The best way to deal with complaints is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Knowing you have preventative solutions in place to avoid neighbor complaints will improve your emotional state and reduce the risk of any more unpleasant confrontations. Here are our tips for keeping your neighbors happy.
Establish clear lines of communication with your neighbors
Start your relationship with your neighbors on the right foot by talking with them before you list your home as a short-term rental property. Take them a gift, like some brownies, a candy platter, or bottle of wine, listen to their concerns, and reassure them that you want a good relationship with them.
At this point, you can tell them that your booking agency does not allow parties in typical properties, and sets clear house rules, so your guests know they have to respect the neighbors and the residential area.
To keep each other updated on any issues, swap contact information. And if you feel it warrants this step, such as in the case of an overly concerned neighbor, you could send them a quick message a couple of days before each new guest arrives so they know what to expect.
A friendly relationship with your neighbors beforehand is the number one thing you can do, and will help wonders if any problems arise later.
Set clear house rules
You’d like to think that everyone knows how to behave, but it doesn’t hurt to set clear guidelines on what you expect from your guests. At least, you’ll be able to point them to the rules if they end up breaking them.
In particular, vacation homeowners should be clear on any issues that could upset neighbors like:
- Appropriate times for coming and going
- Quiet hours
- A ban on excessive noise levels, especially at night
- Parking spaces and rules
- Instructions for using communal spaces like the pool or gym
- Information about taking out the garbage
- Limits on the number of people allowed in the property one time
Your guests often appreciate knowing the boundaries before their stay, and your neighbors certainly will.
Screen ALL guests
Luxury Kosher Villas entire family of companies does not allow guests to book on their own, only request to book. Our office screens every request to help you avoid kashrus issues, troublemakers and reduce complaints. We keep extensive notes on each guest that causes problems, and maintain a database of 15,000+ approved guests. And we will only take booking that we feel will be a good fit with the property and not result in complaints from the neighbors.
But owners and neighbors need to realize that we, and no system, are perfect, and the determined troublemaker can occasionally get past the filters we put in place.
Target a specific audience, but be smart
Obviously, you should never judge a book by its cover, but some groups of guests, like teenagers, singles and those specifically looking to make a wild party, make more noise than others.
We try to avoid this type of group by setting limits on guest numbers or designing your short-term rental property to attract families with guest rooms tailored to couples with children.
We can also work with owners to arrange furniture in such a way to limit food going into living areas or for larger spaces being used as a party space. Tailoring your space in a way that avoids parties will help you avoid excessive noise, mess, and potential disturbances.
Airbnb has officially banned parties in all its property listings. Obviously, there are civilized parties that don’t involve loud music, bad behavior, and damage to your vacation rental property, but the easiest way to avoid problems caused by rowdy parties is to ban them completely.
With the exception of a few properties tailored for events, LuxuryKosherVillas has a ‘No Parties’ rule across all of our platforms.
Check-in Check-out times
Limiting the times when guests can check in and check out will reduce the noise they can make with wheelie suitcases, car doors slamming, and excited chatter during nighttime hours. You can even limit check-ins to the weekend, which will have the added bonus of encouraging longer stays.
Setting daytime or weekend check-in and check-out times will avoid disturbing your neighbors with the noise of wheelie suitcases. Each of our listed properties has specific days and times where check-ins and check-outs are restricted, and we work with each property or area to come up with the best solution
Getting into a long-drawn-out conflict with your neighbors over your vacation rental is terrible for stress levels and might even land you in trouble with the authorities.
But, as long as you’re complying with local and HOA rules and show a willingness to compromise, you should be able to deal with most issues as they arise and continue to grow your vacation home business.
We’ll take care of entire the screening process, and use our wealth of experience to make the determination whether you would want them as a guest in your home.
You’ll get peace of mind that your property is safe.
And you’ll know that it’s not just you getting a good night’s sleep, your neighbors are getting a good night’s sleep as well.
On Handling (and Preventing) Vacation Rental Neighbor Complaints
Complaints from your neighbors about your vacation rental shouldn’t keep you awake at night.
Noisy, inconsiderate or simply unknowing guests might seem perfectly nice during the booking process, but there’s no limit to how much damage they can cause to your community relationships. Their behavior could even land you with an expensive lawsuit.
In this article, we bank on our years of experience in the kosher vacation rental business, as well as excerpted relevant points and tips from our rental insurance provider, for dealing with vacation rental neighbor complaints to help you diffuse conflict and prevent legal actions against you, the homeowner.
We’ll also look at what we do as a company to help prevent neighbor complaints from happening in the first place..
Let’s begin by looking at the types of actions neighbors can take against you and how you can respond.
Even before your first booking
Establish trust by meeting your neighbor in person, preferably before your first booking. Say hello. Get to know them. Hear out any concerns that they may have. Take them seriously. And explain to them how you will work to address their concerns. This preventative step can be the most important step that you take. Give them your number, and let them know they can call you with concerns.
Showing your face before any trouble arises and developing a relationship at this point changes the entire dynamic of your relationship with them in any future interactions.
What actions can neighbors take?
The actions your neighbors take will no doubt be determined by how affected they are by your inconsiderate guests.
On the one hand, a late-night party might result in a frustrated text from your neighbors.
At the other extreme, your neighbors might call the police if this happens frequently, or your guests damage property or cross property lines onto neighboring properties. This escalation would almost certainly sour neighborly and community relationships and could jeopardize the future of your vacation rental business entirely as well. Let’s have a look at the main actions neighbors can take and we as a company and you as the homeowner can deal with them.
A direct phone call or text from a neighbor is likely to be the first course of action for a minor annoyance like excessive noise. It’s obviously stressful to be ‘told off’ by your neighbors, but if you handle it right, you can stay on top of the situation and prevent it from escalating.
Taking the call or responding to the text with a call and expressing how sorry you are, can make a meaningful difference to how your neighbors feel about the incident. You can explain that you’re serious about tackling the problem and talk them through the steps you’ll take to resolve it. They’ll be more likely to come to you directly in future if you show consideration and if you fix the issue.
If their complaint is more general and about not wanting a short-term rental next door, you’ll need to employ your best diplomatic skills. Gently point out that you value their feedback, are working with a reputable rental company, and collaboratively will be doing your utmost to avoid negatively affecting their lives.
This will hopefully reduce your own stress levels too, as you’ll know you’ve taken positive steps to listen and respond to your neighbors’ justified concerns about having a vacation rental next door.
Report you to your Home Owner Association (HOA)
If your building or your street is part of a Home Owner Association (HOA), there’ll be rules and regulations governing behavior such as noise ordinances or use of communal spaces. These rules apply as much to guests as they do to permanent residents, and if your guests break these rules, your neighbors might go straight to the HOA to complain.
When dealing with your HOA, you’ll need to show that you have all the necessary permits in order plus permission from the HOA to host a vacation property. Once you’ve dealt with the original complaint, you can seek to mend your relationship with the HOA. Show them what steps you’ll take to improve your neighbor’s experience of your short-term rental property, for example:
- Guest screening
- Age limits to avoid high school and college parties
- A ban on parties
- Designated guest parking areas
- Limits on guest access to communal areas
- Check-in and check-out times restricted to daytime hours
Report you to your booking agency
Booking platforms, are aware of their impact on residential areas and aim to appease neighbors with web-based complaints forms. For example, there’s a Neighborhood Support page for Airbnb problems where neighbors can choose from a range of common complaints including excessive noise, parties, and personal safety.
When a neighbor reports a listing to the agency, the platform contacts the rental hosts to immediately investigate. At this point, it’s a good idea to show contrition and a willingness to change some rules if need be.
Use the opportunity to write a letter apologizing for the problems that led to the complaint and give some clear examples of how you plan to improve the situation. Your booking platform will typically report this back to the neighbor who made the original complaint, so be sure no to make empty claims. The neighbor who was annoyed enough to complain, must have faith that this was an isolated incident.
You’d be unlucky to lose your listing on the platform after one complaint, but booking platforms will blacklist properties for repeat violations, especially those on the part of the owner, their family members or guests who use the property during periods when the property has a vacancy from the booking agency’s side.
Luxury Kosher Villas, Florida Kosher Villas, and Lakewood Hosts all do not allow owners to rent parts of their property (such as pools, hot tubs, saunas, backyards, etc) outside of our agency at any time, to avoid the issue of parties or the like impacting neighbors.
While rare, it’s not unheard of for neighbors to take legal action against a vacation rental. However, lawsuits are so expensive and time-consuming that most people avoid them if they can.
Try to find a solution before you get to court. You could try to rebuild bridges with your neighbors by asking an independent mediator or Rav to attend a meeting with you and your neighbors. A mediator won’t have the same financial motivation as a lawyer and can help guide the discussion and give everyone a chance to express their views.
After a thorough clearing of the air, and a sincere apology from yourself, your neighbors might change their minds about moving forward with costly legal action.
If you do end up in court, at least make sure you have your paperwork in order and that the situation has been resolved. If a judge hears that your short-term rental is still the scene of noisy parties and antisocial behavior, you will very likely struggle to receive their sympathy.
Next up: How to prevent neighbor complaints
In Yiddish – Honest, down-to-earth, entertaining, and amazingly clear and interesting for any frum yid.
Latest Talks podcast recently held a fascinating interview, chock full of business advice, candid stories, and a wealth of experience and general business knowledge, with Shaya Weinberger, Co-CEO and Founder of Florida Kosher Villas, Luxury Kosher Villas, and Lakewood Hosts!
Watch the entire interview right here – and learn valuable lessons and insights into what differentiates LuxuryKosherVillas.com’s family of brands and grew us Bs”D into the extensive enterprise we’ve become.
We assure you – it’s anything but boring.
See all of Latest talk’s Episode’s Here
Find your next vacation rental here
Swan Lake, NY.
Swan Lake? What’s there?
A whole lot.
Probably a lot more than you even thought to think about, actually.
But in its own, unassuming way, this pristine part of the Catskills retains much of the beauty of the old-world mountains, without the crowds and traffic you’d find in the more popularly known towns. And it is quiet. Much nicer and quieter than most of the known kosher Catskill regions.
Everyone’s been to (or at least heard of) Monticello, South Fallsburg, Liberty or Woodbourne. Sure they have lots to offer. But that brings crowds. And crowds bring traffic. And development. And traffic lights. And big box stores.
Before you know it, there’s a city there and it no longer retains the quiet country charm with sun-splashed meadows, views, solitude, starlit skies with the sound of crickets in the background quiet.
You can still have that in Swan Lake. Not surprisingly, many of the most popular camps also choose to be away from the hustle and bustle of the busier cities, and are located within a few minute car ride from this quaint, beautiful hamlet.
A short ride will bring you to Camps Bais Yakov, Munk, Pupa, Satmar, Machanaim, Camp Toras Chesed, Shoresh, Mogen Av, Gila Bnos, Aguda, Bnos Skver, Adas Bnos Vien, Romimu and more.
But don’t think you’re out in the boondocks either.
While being away from the main drag, you’ll still find so many great amenities with a small town feel. A shul with multiple minyanim a day, Tyberg’s grocery, a pizza shop, bakery, and takeout store all in the center of ‘town’. Minus all the parking hassles and honking horns.
There is so much to see and do in the area as well.
Staying local will bring you to some of the smaller family owned farms, farmstands and more.
LuxuryKosherVillas.com is proud to have two phenomenal, year-round kosher vacation rentals in Swan Lake, NY. These two properties can be rented on their own, or combined for large family sizes of up to 35, subject to availability.
Check out The Overlook Villa at Tranquility Pond – sleeps up to 16, with a private pond, spacious lawns, wrap-around porches, and a sunken, year-round hot-tub!
Check out the historical Mountain View Villa & Carriage House – sleeps up to 20, with spacious lawns, porches, and located across the street from all the towns amazing amenities – shul, mikvah, grocery, pizza shop, takeout and more!
Here’s a great list of fun activities, day trip ideas, and things to do in and around Greater Swan Lake:
Bethel Creamery, Swan Lake, NY
525 Happy Ave. Swan Lake, New York 12783 | Phone: 845-583-6059 | pellehpoultry.com
Owned by the Franklin family of Pelleh Poultry fame, has long been a roadside stop for many for decades. Best known for their milk, their grass fed, all natural Jersey cow dairy is a small boutique, old-world farm, where you can buy some of the best-tasting and freshest dairy products, yogurts, maple syrup and more.
Their farm stand is open daily in the summer months, and on Sundays, they have hayrides and farm tours as well, where you meet the farming family, their cows, and enjoy a tractor ride into their pastures. And (warning!) once you try their chocolate milk or spectacular Greek yogurt, it’s very hard to stop!
Rolling Stone Ranch, Bethel, NY
282 W. Shore Rd. Bethel, New York 12720 | Phone: 845-583-1100 | rollingstoneranch.com
A rescue horse farm just down the road from Bethel Creamery, offering trail rides, horseback riding lessons and more.
Beaverwood Farm, Swan Lake, NY
12 Topaz Ln, Swan Lake, NY 12783 | Phone: 845-295-0194 | facebook.com/beaverwoodfarmers
Some of the friendliest, nicest and knowledgeable goyim you’ll meet, and they can often open their farm and petting zoo for you and your family to enjoy. Call ahead, as they often are booked by camps as a traveling petting zoo. Inquire about curing thrush with goats milk directly from a goat’s teat – a well-known cure amongst many chassidim.
Water activities? Absolutely! White Lake, Swinging Bridge Lake, Loch Sheldrake and the Neversink Reservoir among others, all offer boat rentals and rides not too far away. From the fast flying motorboats, to easy pedaling there’s a great option nearby.
Pro tip: Call first to ensure there’s availability and book by phone if you can ahead of time.
Motorboats, Tubing, Banana Boating, Pontoons
Paynes Watersports: 1550 NY-17B, White Lake, NY 12786 | Phone: (845) 583-1000
Gene’s Boats: 3429 State Rte 55, White Lake, NY 12786 | Phone: (845) 583-9787
Starlight Marina: 26 Marina Rd, Monticello, NY 12701 | Phone: (845) 796-2628
Swinging Bridge Marina: 371 Starlight Rd, Monticello, NY 12701 | Phone: (845) 794-6530
Canoes, Kayaks, Pedal Boats, (Picnic Boats, Motor Rafts)
Bradley Boat Rentals: 220 Lindholm Rd, Hurleyville, NY 12747 | Phone: (845) 807-1145
Boat Cafe: 1188 NY-52, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759 | Phone: (845) 807-8006
Lake Superior State Park: 342 Duggan Rd, Bethel, NY 12720 | Phone: 845-794-3000
However you choose to enjoy your trip to to the country, you’ll be sure to enjoy it to the fullest with a kosher upstate vacation rental from LuxuryKosherVillas.com
Because when you want a real vacation – it’s not where everyone else is going. Leave your stress in the city, and enjoy a real kosher Catskills kosher vacation – where you can actually relax.
…and Rusty Nails Reused
By S.A. Rowner
It was made of memories and miracles. And it was ingeniously expandable to any size it needed to be.
A feat of engineering, you might think. But certainly not according to the laws of physics.
Using those principles, the structure probably shouldn’t have stood at all. After all, it had no walls. Not in any definition of walls we think of anyways. It didn’t have a roof either, for that matter.
I know this because I spent quite a bit of time in it, as a child, teenager and adult. Truthfully, the only way we can attribute its integrity each year that it went up and stayed intact was to miracles. As a high school STEM teacher, I can attest to that.
I’m talking about my Zeide’s sukkah.
I’m not sure when he upgraded to his custom-built contraption, but my mother often told me that he used to build his temporary dwelling each year with an odd assortment of colorful doors – the home variety that open and close when hung on a frame with hinges and fastened to adjacent walls – which I can only imagine how he connected together to form the walls.
In my mind’s eye, I see flaking colored paint, wooden splinters, door knobs, assorted dangling ancient lock chains, and the odd glaring hole where a brass knob once proudly allowed entry somewhere. But having not actually seen that particular sukkah of his, let me not digress, and get back to the one I did..
At some point Zeide decided that his aforementioned Sukkos dwelling was due for an upgrade, and he actually procured eight matching wooden panels from somewhere. I suppose purchase, as they all matched, although when I first remember seeing them, they matched in their aged condition, and that must have been thirty five years ago.
So how does a sukkah without walls even qualify as a sukkah? And how could it stand, let alone hold a crowd? And what was entailed in my Zeide “building” it?
Here’s how he did it, to the best I can explain.
Taking two blank, bare sheets of ⅝” thin, four by eight plywood, with no frames, two by fours or any other means of stabilizers, bolts, screws or attachments, my Zeide somehow proceeded to nail the two corner edges together so that incredibly, it stood. How? Miracles.
My grandfather then proceeded to replicate his miracle-inducing handiwork for the other three corners as well, leaving a large gap between his four ‘corner’s.
Pieces of well-worn, repurposed string were then affixed between two of the largest gaps, with a blanket thrown over one to close the gap, and a curtain suspended from the second string, to serve as a door that opens or closes. The other two gaps were closed by simply throwing up some scrap lumber and nailing them against an already unsteady structure – if it could even be called that.
How did it not fall over when he precariously nailed those wood pieces in? Another one of the mysteries and the miracles, I guess.
Lastly, my Zeide throw a motley assortment of bent, rusty-nail-filled, ancient beams across the top of his walls, placed bamboo poles and his favorite schach of bulrush reeds which he would cut himself in Canarsie each year, all the way back since he was a kid in the 1930’s.
Voila. My Zeide’s Sukkah. I’m sure he was proud of it. We certainly were proud of him!
But that wasn’t even the biggest miracle.
Year after year, he would take down the sukkah. But he didn’t believe in taking out the old nails. I guess he just wrenched it apart and the angels holding it up simply let go.
The sukkah weathered each year against the wall of his house out in the elements of his Brooklyn backyard. And so the rust on the nails grew, as the board’s edges splintered to bits.
Only to be lovingly banged back together again the following year, and again wrenched apart as the process repeated itself year after year.
How it stood from the beginning was the smaller miracle. How it went up year after year as it deteriorated further and further for so many years was the big miracle.
And oh, the memories that were made in that sukkah! The songs sung by generations of descendants – children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. What was a yom tov without a visit to Zeide and Bobby?
In 2007, I had a feeling that it was becoming harder and harder for my Zeide to put up his miraculous sukkah, and a premonition gripped me, to take pictures of it for posterity.
I turned out to be correct, as it was the last year the miraculous Sukkah went up before a commercially made small canvas one took its place of glory next year.
And while the malachim holding up the Sukkah aren’t visible in the pictures, the viewer does experience just a little taste of our special Zaide and Bobby, their Sukkah, and the miracles we merited to see with our own eyes.
Today, with LuxuryKosherVillas.com kosher vacation home rentals, great family memories can be made without resorting to such miracles and effort. Luxurious kosher homes, vacation villas and even large kosher family reunion-sized rental properties in Lakewood, simcha-sized kosher vacation mansion in Monsey, Airmont and the surrounding areas, stand waiting and ready for you to bring the whole family together!
And for Sukkos, it comes with a beautiful Sukkah and makes for great family memories… no rusty nails, repurposed doors or splinters included.
On 2020, hot tubs, quarantine, and witches in a blizzard, Part 2
By: S.A. Rowner
Uh-oh. Apparently, they sent him to a completely different house than what he’d booked, and it looked nothing even remotely like the pictures. Upon reaching out to the owner, she assured them not to worry, she had made a mistake and she owns multiple houses, so don’t worry if it’s completely not what they booked, and when on a convincing speech about how much better this home would be.
Hmmmmmm. What did he have to lose, by staying, I guessed. At least it had a hot tub, right?
So they pulled their minivan up the long, steep driveway and began to unload, just as the skies began to unload a two day blizzard of nearly 3’ of snow on them, the driveway and the car.
This was going to get interesting.
They settled in and headed for the hot tub, supposed to be the centerpiece of their entertainment for the trip.
Oops. Cold. The landlord hadn’t warmed it up, so they’d have to wait. No big deal, but you need to realize that a hot tub heats up by only 2-3 degrees per hour. This was going to be a L-O-N-G wait.
When they finally could get in, they immediately sensed something wrong, as everyone in the family got horribly irritating skin rashes from the chemically unbalanced water.
Could it get any worse? And they had no recourse, as they had made a private pay arrangement with the owner as opposed to booking through a booking system that could have intervened, or at least helped them with a refund, or at minimum, leave a review for the next guests reflecting their experience. Nothing doing.
My friend called me, and I was feeling guilty for all of his hardships. After all, I pushed him to do this. So I suggested that he bail out a bunch of water from the hot tub, and refill it with shovelfuls of snow, to lower the chemical content in the water.
He started doing that and immediately his phone rings.
It was the landlady.
“Vhy arre you pudding shnovw in der hottub? Vhudd arre you doo-eeng?” She wanted to know.
Wait one second. How could she possibly have known that?
Looking around, they spotted cameras constantly keeping an intrusive eye on them, even out by the hot tub!
“Eez goot” said the lady. “No too much chlooorreen, and eez perfect bahlanced bromine, dee vhadder.”
And these rashes got here all by themselves, right?
Man, this wasn’t turning out to be too great.
The snow kept piling up, and when they were supposed to checkout, I called them for an update.
“We’re trapped here”, they said. At this point, I had no great advice to offer them.
Moral of the story, some people just aren’t created with the kind of personality to wing all of these issues, and pull off this kind of vacation on their own.
They should vacation in a place that takes care of all these things, including kosher kitchens, proper maintenance, all of the little things they’d need and then some, and not have to worry about cameras intruding on their privacy, which by the way, is illegal.
My friend and his family are in that category.
The good news is, with the help of a tow truck and snow plows they eventually made it out of their entrapment, cold feet, rashes and all.
And when I asked his son if there was anything that they enjoyed about the vacation, I really didn’t get much of a positive response.
Surprised? The optimist in me was still trying to assuage my guilt.
They should have gone to a luxurious vacation home from LuxuryKosherVillas.com. Kosher vacation rentals in Florida, Kosher vacation homes in New york, Kosher vacation homes with indoor pools, kosher vacation homses with hot tubs; yup. they have it.
For what they ended up paying for the wrong mediocre property that they got, they could’ve done very nicely in a beautifully cared for, perfectly outfitted kosher vacation home.
And if it didn’t have a hot tub, (some do,) they still would have been better off and would’ve gone home without irritating chemical rashes.
And in so many great locations, many warm all year-round, being close to the shore, it doesn’t snow nearly as much as the inland areas do. This particular storm brought a few slushy inches to the Lakewood are, for one, that wouldn’t have gotten them stuck in the snow.
Never mind feeling trapped by a witch of a landlord peering intently at their every move on cameras.
I think they’ve learned their lesson.
Oh and their cold feet? They’re no longer brominated, not to worry, but to be honest, I’m not sure how quickly they be jumping to get into another so quickly.
And I don’t blame them a bit.
On 2020, hot tubs, quarantine, and witches in a blizzard, Part 1
By: S.A. Rowner
And so, as it inevitably happened to so many others these past two years, a friend of mine’s child tested positive for Covid.
As we all learned back in March, 2020 – and some of us are still learning through it – being stuck at home with everyone in quarantine is certainly no fun for the parents. And that’s just on the first day.
With the dreaded quarantine for all family members somehow taking longer than the actual ‘diagnosee’ these days (I know, go figure!), this friend and his family somehow survived the 14 days, were ready to send their kids back to school and he back to face the world again, when on the day they were allowed out, he, my friend, developed a fever.
He went to take a Corona test that night and called me back to let me know that he was absolutely certain that the lab he visited can get rapid results, even this late at night.
“Are you sure?” I asked him.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “I know this because I’m a very positive guy right now.”
Ouch. On just the day he was ready to make a “mattir assurim“.
His case was B”H mild, he got an antibody infusion, and in a few days was back to himself, BUT, his family was still quarantined, and now the Yeshiva had mid-winter break, an extended weekend off, and he was already sick of seeing his kids all day and night, and they were sick of being cooped up in the house!
Kvetching to me about his plight, I pushed him to break out of his box a little.
Rent a vacation home somewhere so at least you and the kids get a change of scenery, and quarantine safely there!
Skeptical, he had a million and one questions. “Where do I even find one of those?” he asked.
Being a more savvy vacation planner than he, I pulled up VRBO and used a couple of my own pointers to find him any house, that could hold his family, in a nice secluded area, affordably and sent him a link to the list.
What about the kitchen, he asked? How can you use a non-kosher kitchen? I explained that there are ways to kasher burners, self clean the ovens, etc, and I was sensing that he was getting a bit overwhelmed by it. Just bring along two George Foreman grills, one for milchigs and one for fleishigs, I suggested. Cook simply, like grilled cheese, paninis, hotdogs, and forget about kashering the kitchen.
He was concerned what his kids would do all day. I told him to find a house with a gameroom, common enough in vacation homes and a filterable category in the list of choices. The idea intrigued him, and he kept busy for a few hours, comparing air hockey tables and ping pong in the different options.
But then he got cold feet again.
So I had a brainstorm to warm him up to the idea again.
“Have you ever heard of a hot tub?”, I asked.
“Isn’t that like an outdoor jacuzzi?” He wanted to know. “That doesn’t affect me this trip. It’s the middle of January!”
I explained to him that the best and most enjoyable time to use a hot tub is in the freezing cold, with the temperature set to 104 degrees, surrounded by the snow under starry skies, your breaths misting in the cool air.
“Your kids will love it too,” I surmised. “Mine can’t get enough of it!”
Ok, it appeared that I had convinced him back on board, and I anticipated hearing back from him soon that he was booked in and all set to go.
Not so fast.
When I hadn’t heard back from him by the next morning, I called him to find out what was going on.
“It’s nuts,” he said. “I simply can’t afford this. Every time I get to the checkout page, there are all of these extra fees that hike up the price to almost double.”
I explained to him how to negotiate with the owners, by writing a nice quick form mail and then copy/pasting it to each potential home, and to make a short story longer, he finally booked something with someone, albeit off the VRBO system, so the owner could avoid paying commission and give him a price break.
Voila! Now it should be smooth sailing from here, I thought.
If only. I should’ve sent him to LuxuryKosherVillas.com.
My bad. Here’s what happened next.
My phone showed a text message the night he was supposed to arrive. “Please call. Urgent,” it read.
(Continued in Part 2)
Wintertime CAN be fun… or really not…
By: S.A. Rowner
The treadmill of a busy life just doesn’t stop.
And it gets tiring, makes one feel irritable, and sometimes just gets overwhelming. Never mind when enough life situations bombard you at the same time, making it feel like someone threw the speed switch up to the max.
And that’s what happened to a good friend of mine about a week ago. Work situations were moving so fast, he felt like he was going to just let go of the handlebars, and shoot off the back of the treadmill.
It’s good he didn’t.
Instead, his wife was kind enough to let him go for two nights to clear his head. So he called me and asked me to come along.
Now I had to beg the favor from my wife, who thankfully agreed to let me go with him.
To where? Well, he’s an avid fisherman. I’m really not one, although I’ll try it for kicks.
It’s the middle of January, for heaven’s sake. And to run off to a warmer climate for two short nights didn’t seem worth the hassle of booking flights, a car, finding a place to stay, and then finding things to do.
So he chose to do this a different way.
The Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is known for its beauty in the summer. And its generous amounts of lake effect snow in the winter, from Lake Ontario.
Lake effect snow occurs when cold air, often originating from Canada, moves across the open waters of the Great Lakes. As the cold air passes over the unfrozen and relatively warmer waters of the Great Lakes, warmth and moisture are transferred into the lowest portion of the atmosphere. Then, the moist air moves away from the lake and locally drops the moisture as huge amounts of snow in a very short time, sometimes measuring in feet!
It stays locally though and doesn’t usually tie in with other weather patterns responsible for bringing typical snowstorms associated with fronts and atmospheric pressure changes.
Anyhow, the attraction of snow was only one reason this Canadian-born guy and Russian-born friend decided to head up five hours North there. But it wasn’t the main one.
The Salmon River was.
The Salmon River is a small, fast-flowing river north of Syracuse in Upstate New York. It is a popular and economically important sportfishing destination, and the most heavily fished of New York’s Lake Ontario tributaries, as millions of popular sportfish fish return to the river for annual spawning runs after spending a majority of their lives largely in Lake Ontario, where the river ends.
We decided at 3 PM to head out there, threw a bunch of cold-weather layers into knapsacks, and were in the car on the way by 4.
We jumped into Evergreen Supermarket in Monsey, NY (along the way), and loaded up on a bunch of their conveniently already-prepared travel meals, bread, a tray of assorted cheeses, and bagged nosh. Now successfully (over)provisioned, we hit the main road for the trip up North.
In the car, my friend arranged a private fishing guide for the next morning, and we booked an Airbnb right on the lake for the night, arranging with the host that we’d be arriving late so we’d let ourselves in.
It snowed along the way, and that was totally fine with us, and we arrived at about 11 PM at the cabin. If we can even call it that.
Entering a musty porch, we could immediately see the appeal of the place – if you were looking for the local furniture dump.
The couches had more springs than a car suspension system and were about as comfortable as sitting atop a pile of assorted-size rocks.
There was a television screen held up on one side by a roll of tissue paper, and the drafts had been creatively dealt with by covering the large cracks in the wall with swaths of blue painter’s tape.
The bathroom had a plastic accordion door for privacy, but no ceiling so the walls only served as partitions, and the A-frame interior wood paneling amplified sound all around the cabin.
But five redeeming qualities generated, in my opinion, the 145, pretty-much all positive reviews that previous guests had left.
The first was the location. Backing right onto Lake Ontario, and being geographically close to the Salmon River, this was a fisherman’s dream.
The second was the outdoor tub. Give people a reason to spend time out of the ugly, and they will rave about that one pretty thing, and forget about the rest.
The third was that the house listing was presented exactly as-is – No attempts to gloss over or photoshop pictures, and therefore, guest’s expectations were delivered on arrival. No luxuries expected, and the cabin delivered on that expectation.
Fourth, the place was reasonably clean. That makes a big difference.
Lastly, the owner, a local farmer was communicative and friendly, and it’s hard to fault a guy who was happy to accommodate, delivered what he said, and even let us check out late.
Oh, and the fishing trip the next day was cool. Literally and in a manner of speaking. It snowed, it was freezing, and we had a really nice time on a private drift boat with our HUGE guide, aptly named “Tiny”.
Typically, my friend caught two huge Steelhead Salmon that we kept, and I caught…. none.
It won’t get me a Steelhead Salmon for Shabbos, but I won’t have to wrack my brains trying to figure out why everyone reviews the villas so positively. Because each villa simply speaks for itself.
Oh, and I’ll leave the treadmill back home.