Monday, March 02, 2009

Passover economic woes

This morning's Palm Beach Post has an article on the failed dreams of developers in Port St. Lucie Fl. They built a 94,000 square foot clubhouse sorrounded by 140 mansions.with room for another 800 homes.There was to be a golf club and a private spa .Truly a tribute to luxury and extravagence.Now assets are being sold in bankruptcy Court.
The thought that the bull market would never end and home prices would never fall has claimed many victims.Our community has not been spared.
I am reminded of the huge opulent bar mitzvahs and weddings that all of us have attended.Each one trying to outdo their neighbor.
Suddenly the economic facts of life that we observe every day are hitting our community .Tuition at Yeshivas are out of sight,and many have multiple children who not only go to school,but have been accustomed to go to summer camp,where the fees just about equal to tuitions.Many will have to either avoid camp,or cut down to one month, as the burdens of our lifestyle comes face to face with reality.
Most of these economic hardships are really dealt with within the privacy of the home.However there is a public barometer,and it is ugly.
For years Passover has been a time that growing numbers of families went to hotels for the holiday.As time went on,the hotel properties became more opulent and expensive.The programs have raised the prices accordingly and tried to offer 5 star food,etc.Programs from Israel,Italy,Spain,Puerto Rico,Canada and all parts of the US.competed with the finest wines,entertainment and lectures.
Usually if you were to walk around the dining room of these hotels, you would realize that there were probably 3 generations(occasionally 4 )sitting together, more than likely all being paid for by the grandfather.It didn't take much arithmetic to realize the financial totals involved in such endeavors.
The lucrative market was such,that every year new and more expensive properties in esoteric places opened.In addition to the basic cost ranging from 2-5 ,000 dollars per person ,plus tips and tax there was a travel cost to all but local hotels.
Alas,this year,despite pages and pages of advertisements in Anglo-jewish media ,many of these hotels like the above mentioned housing extravaganza,will not open.Reservations are way down,and the hotels are demanding that the contracts which call for guaranteed numbers be lived up to.One hotel in Miami, is combining with a second one.The huge cost of these efforts is becoming a burden to many.
Perhaps next year,there will be a return to more moderate priced programs.Of course there will always be those who can afford only the best.However, the programs will be careful because the cost to run these programs and the potential for the program operator to lose their guarantees is great.
It is interesting that my friends the Hochdorfs who for 35 years have run the old Granit Hotel (now Hudson ValleyResort-which by the way is where I seve as Scholar -in -residence) is totally sold out.