Sometimes we find ourselves traveling at the most inconvenient times. Business trips, family visits and long-term backpacking can cause anxiety when they happen to coincide with family-oriented holidays, such as Passover.
It’s comforting to know that seders are now available in the far corners of the globe and that visitors are always welcome — indeed, they even enrich the experience for the local Jewish community.
Consider Asia. Although we’ve yet to see provisions made for kosher travel in Indonesia or Malaysia, there are plenty of options in Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and Singapore. Although there are no Passover resorts in these countries, they still offer an adventurous holiday experience that suits every budget.
Keep in mind that all of the Jewish centers in the region require security checks, so please bring ID if you wish to consider enjoying Passover — which starts on the evening of March 25 this year — in one of these exotic Asian destinations.
Hong Kong, with its estimated 6,000 Jews and many transient visitors, is one of the few Jewish communities in Asia that is large enough to have a selection of kosher restaurants. The quality of the cuisine is quite high, and the local community is welcoming to travelers.
For Passover this year, the Jewish Community Centre on Robinson Road is offering two seders and a feast at the end of Passover. It is large and accommodating with the Ohel Leah Synagogue, a colonial structure from 1901, on the grounds. Dining options include a restaurant, a poolside cafe, and barbecues or buffets available on weekends. Visitors can apply for passes to use the pool, library and Koshermart, which stocks an extensive range of kosher foods from overseas. jcc.org.hk.
Other kosher culinary options include Kehilat Zion Synagogue’s gourmet glatt kosher restaurant, Mul Hayam at 62 Mody Road, in the Kowloon section of Hong Kong. kehilat-zion.org/restaurant.php.
A beach holiday in tropical Thailand is the perfect family holiday or romantic getaway. If you want to enjoy your trip and your Passover experience, look to the Chabad houses in Bangkok and Phuket. They deliver kosher meals to the kitchen of any hotel — double-wrapped for reheating in the hotel ovens — for between $25 and $35 per meal. A more affordable option is to eat in-house and try the authentic Thai and Israeli kosher dishes.
The Jewish community in Thailand is transient and caters to travelers, especially backpackers. Meals at the Chabad houses, except the delivery items, are all subsidized. Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai have several kosher options: The Jewish Association of Thailand and Chabad House host seder meals every Passover in Bangkok, as does the Phuket Chabad. jewishthailand.com.
With its tiny Jewish community and excellent facilities, Japan has a small but very chic Jewish community center (JCC) in Hiroo, an exclusive foreign enclave in Tokyo. The center, maintained by the Jewish Community of Japan, as the egalitarian congregation is known, has the ambience of a private club, and meals are slightly more expensive than the other kosher options in Asia — a trip to Japan is never going to be cheap.
The JCC’s fleishig (meat) kitchen offers high-quality fare and a range of ethnic dishes; a nonmember’s Shabbat meal costs around $30. The center will host two seders this year, and Passover food for home cooking can be purchased every year. jccjapan.or.jp.
The Chabad House of Tokyo and the JCC offer delivery of kosher meals to hotels, but the cost recently quoted is upward of $100.
The little island state of Singapore has an illustrious Jewish history. Before the Japanese invasion of 1942, more than 1,500 Jewish residents built national monuments, such as Chesed-El Synagogue and Maghain Aboth Synagogue.
The Jacob Ballas Centre is the lifeline of the Jewish community and home to Singapore’s first kosher restaurant. The center, at 24 Waterloo St., is a picturesque colonial building complete with the historic Maghain Aboth Synagogue within the small compound. Security is quite high; bags may be checked. Awafi kosher restaurant, located within the center, has fine fusion cuisine and some Singaporean favorites, such as curries, sizzling beef and mee goreng noodles. For Passover seders and Shabbat dinner, reservations are highly recommended. singaporejews.com.