100K in Orlando for Pesach
April 2, 2021
Businesses, caterers and volunteer groups were among the many who geared up for a busy Pesach in Orlando, with as many as 100,000 people who made their way to Central Florida for Passover.
With few formal hotel programs operating and an ideal Chol Hamoed for day tripping, this year’s Pesach created the perfect storm, with Orlando at its epicenter.
“Every caterer without a job has shown up on the market to offer full catering,” Miami resident Dovid Goldwasser, who has been actively involved in large scale planning for Pesach in Orlando, told Yeshiva World News. “There are even people who make their own programs with chefs, party planners and waiters.”
Some private home developments functioned entirely as resort communities, putting up one tent for a shul and another for kiddushim. In certain developments, all the food was prearranged and delivered individually to each home, with a full schedule of programming in place including day camp, shiurim, entertainment and more.
“An enormous number of people have newly discovered Orlando this year, because in the height of COVID it was the only option,” noted Goldwasser.
Even while on vacation, Chaverim members were active in Orlando, responding to a variety of situations including car lockouts, battery issues and flat tires. And understanding that Orlando’s infrastructure of Jewish eateries cannot possibly accommodate the vast influx of visitors, many kosher restaurants from other locations sent food trucks to Orlando to pick up some extra business over Pesach.
“There’s milchics, fleishics, ice cream trucks – you name it,” said Goldwasser. “We have seen so many people bringing their businesses down to Orlando over Pesach, from photographers to sheitel machers and more. Everyone brings their talents to Orlando and since they are there anyway, they can service the klal and make some money.”
For some, this Passover was a disaster
But with this great influx of visitors, there was also the problem of scams. According to multiple sources, more than 200 homes were “double booked,” many without the original renters knowing about it until the last minute.
The Yeshiva World News reported that it began months ago, as thousands began placing deposits on homes for Pesach. Some homes were being rented for $6,000, and when brokers saw that there was a massive demand for homes, they began renting them to others — some for as much as $25,000. The problem is, some brokers never even told the original renters anything. Some brokers simply lied and said that their credit cards had been declined. This was a blatant lie, and in fact many had been charged, but the brokers had simply “refunded” the money, and taken their next customer who was paying three times the price. Other renters were told the home couldn’t be rented “due to COVID”, “burst pipe”, “roof leaks”, “air conditioning issues”, and other creative lies.
One victim told YWN they booked their home a few days after Chanukah, and found out a little over a week before Passover that they had lost their rental.
The second, and even more disturbing scam, was that people began placing “down-payments” on many homes, showing intent to purchase them, with the condition that they can use it for Pesach. These people have no intent on buying these home, and many are cancelling their “contracts” after Pesach. Their down-payments are less then the amount they would of had to pay to rent a home for Pesach. In fact, YWN has been told that some “brokers” themselves went into contract on many homes to they could rent the homes for a profit. It appears that these “down payments” were done by brokers themselves.
The results of these scams? Hundreds of families finding out a week before Pesach that they had no where to go. One family had already shipped their food on Monday and were flying on Tuesday evening only to find out on Tuesday morning that their home had been cancelled.
YWN is told that lawyers are being hired and the authorities are already looking into this.
Portions of this article were written by Sandy Eller, The Yeshiva World News.