Construction is set to begin this week on what will be South Florida’s only full-time kosher hotel and one of only 15 or 20 such hotels in the world.
“This is very exciting. It really is a game-changer,” said Raffi Bloom, co-owner of TotalyJewishTravel.com, a website based in Manchester, England, that caters to Jewish travelers around the globe who want to remain observant while on vacation. “It means anytime that Jewish people want to travel to South Florida — not just during Passover, winter break or summer holidays — they’ll be able to stay in a hotel with 5-star amenities,” he said.
To be called Wyndham Dolce Kosher House Hotel, the six-story, 100-room resort is being built on U.S. 441 in Hollywood, across the road from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Hollywood-based PCA Construction plans to break ground on the project, designed by another Hollywood firm, Kaller Architecture, on Friday.
Developer Sharon Sharaby, owner of the Boca Raton real estate firm BSD Capital LLC, said the hotel should take 20 months to build and open in late 2022.
Outside of Israel, no other full-time kosher hotel anywhere in the world offers comparable luxury, Bloom said.
Sharaby said in an interview that the hotel will feature a full-service kosher restaurant, Kosher House, that will open to a rooftop pool deck. The restaurant will be run by a chef from Israel. Meals will be prepared under Kashrut dietary laws that forbid mixing meat and dairy products or eating shellfish, pig and other animals that don’t have cloven hooves or chew their cud. Also, the laws dictate how animals that are legal to eat must be killed.
On the Sabbath, two of the hotel’s elevators will be programmed to stop automatically at every floor so guests won’t have to push buttons, which would violate laws prohibiting work. Guests will also be given old-fashioned keys to manually unlock the doors of their rooms so they won’t have to use electronic fobs or key cards.
Guests who are not Jewish will be welcome at the hotel and, except for the kosher restaurant, shouldn’t notice any difference compared to a non-kosher hotel, Sharaby said.
One feature inspired not by kosher rules but by the pandemic will be the use of three robots to deliver room service orders to rooms, he said. Food will be sent out inside the robots so it will be “clean and untouched by humans.”
Together with another planned hotel on U.S. 441, it will be BSD Capital’s first venture into the hotel business. The company typically builds residential buildings and retail strip centers, he said.
The Jewish travel market has grown steadily in recent years, Bloom said, as more hotels have started to accommodate kosher diets and religious requirements. His website, launched in 1999, gets 4,000 visitors a day while its Hebrew-language counterpart gets 3,000 a day, he said.
Yet, few hotels are year-round kosher, he said. Most that cater to Jewish travelers — about 130 are listed on his website — sell blocks of rooms to travel companies that temporarily convert kitchens for kosher food preparation during Passover or during winter and summer holiday seasons.
“It used to be really hard to go on vacation as a proper Jewish person,” he said. Travelers would have to make sure they booked rooms near kosher restaurants or bring their own meat. “You would sit in a restaurant at, say Disney World or Disneyland, and you’d get a tray triple-wrapped in foil, like an airline meal.”
Miami Beach used to have all-kosher hotels, back in the middle of the last century when the city was one of the top vacation destinations for northeastern families, Sharaby said. Today, TotallyJewishTravel.com lists 10 Miami Beach hotels as “non-kosher” and “Jewish-observant friendly.”
Today, the Emerald Hills neighborhood east of the planned hotel in western Hollywood is home to one of South Florida’s largest Jewish communities with more than a dozen synagogues and numerous kosher eateries, including a kosher Dunkin’ Donuts.
While Miami Beach might not be as popular among Jewish visitors as in its heyday, enough come to South Florida each year to make a kosher hotel a worthwhile gamble, Sharaby said.
“We wanted to be pioneers.”