From The Jew in the City
If winter blues are getting you down, perhaps it is time to replace them with blue skies, white sands, and turquoise waters in one of the most beautiful places on earth – Costa Rica. While the country has a small Jewish population of 2000-3000 and boasts a few shuls and kosher restaurants in its capital (San Jose), until recently, the observant Jewish traveler was not able to stay near the hot springs, rainforests, or beaches in an upscale space without schlepping a small kosher kitchen with her. She also had to worry about cooking and cleaning – not the most vacation-friendly activities.
Enter Kosher Casas, an innovative company that literally brings “kosher” to your “casa,” and by “casa” we mean luxury villa secluded in the middle of paradise year round. Founded in 2013 by Eve Berman and Bryna Landes, Kosher Casas finds you a home, hires a mashgiach to kasher it, brings in the kosher food, cookware, and diningware and even has top private Costan Rican chefs and staff to prepare your customized gourmet meals and clean them up. A sample menu might include: fresh baked goods, fresh fruit smoothies, pancakes, omelets for breakfast; fresh fish, salads, dairy pastas for lunch; and meat fajitas with fried plantains for dinner and other local Costan Rican delicacies.
While some guests prefer to go back to San Jose to be near one of the shuls on Shabbos, Kosher Casas can arrange to have a sefer Torah brought to your home if your party is large enough to host its own minyan! One family visiting from Florida did not have enough family members to make a minyan so they invited their chef (who normally runs exclusive restaurant in San Jose) and his family to join them for Shabbos.
For some guests, praying in nature enhances their spiritual experience. A customer told Kosher Casas that that davening on the porch while monkeys were swinging around is an experience their kids will never forget and that her husband’s favorite place to daven was overlooking the rainforest.
With a similar chill, beachy atmosphere and climate to Tel Aviv, a large population of Israelis helps all stripes of Jews feel right at home. Families and couples can enjoy rafting, tours of the gorgeous national parks, jungle waterfall tours, ATV and ziplining for the more adventurous, and of course, relaxing on the the unparalleled secluded beaches and private pools. “The modest swimming and ability to taste authentic local food in a private, strictly kosher setting is what sells families on this vacation they will never forget,” explains the Kosher Casas founders.
Kosher Casas has guests who request a mashgiach on site and Chalav Yisrael, to people who know nothing about kashrus and have a grandchild who keeps kosher. With an on-site coordinator to a customized menu which can cater to stricter levels of kosher, do kosher for Pesach food, vegetarian and vegan diets and food allergies, Kosher Casas makes sure everyone is welcome in their casas.
Sometimes, the visiting guests aren’t the only ones affected positively by a vacation arrangement. A family rented a home in Guanacaste, a beautiful space on the beach. The owner was Jewish but secular. When he found out that Kosher Casas was kashering the home, he called and said “I need to put a mezuzah on the doors.” He bought the mezuzahs and asked if the visiting family would put up the mezuzahs for him. They sent photos of them putting up the mezuzahs. The owner was crying when he saw the photos – he was thrilled with the whole thing.