I have written before that a major perk of being the publisher of The Jewish Link is the fact that I get to meet some special and unique people, both from within and without our community. I write today about my friend Rabbi Benny Rapoport, the director of the Jewish Discovery Center/Chabad of the Abingtons, which is located just outside of Scranton.
The enterprising Rabbi Rapoport first came into my life via phone and email when he called me in 2015 to introduce himself and ask about how I and The Jewish Link could help him market and advertise PoconoKosherSki.com, where he offers low-cost ski tickets and also provides kosher dinner and food to skiers. That ski program has grown tremendously, with hundreds of families and groups attending over the past two seasons. Shortly after, we worked together to help him market his annual Jewish Food Festival, held at the stadium where the Yankees Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders play. He would call regularly to bounce ideas off me, and I like to believe that I was helpful. We developed a nice relationship and were in contact pretty often, but we had never met.
That changed last year when he organized two weekend programs for yeshiva break week at a historic and restored train station in downtown Scranton—the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel. For a very reasonable cost, Rabbi Rapoport and his wife Chany hosted about 250 guests per Shabbat from all over the tri-state area for those two consecutive weekends. At Rabbi Benny’s urging, our family decided to come for one of the weekends and I looked forward to finally meeting him in person.
We truly had a wonderful Shabbat together. The food was excellent, the company was pleasant, the ruach of Rabbi Rapoport and Shir Soul (led by David Ross from our community in New Jersey) was quite beautiful, and the hotel was surprisingly charming and had a nice ambience you wouldn’t expect to find on the edge of downtown Scranton. My wife and children who ski (publisher’s note: I don’t ski) also loved skiing on Sunday at the nearby Montage Mountain, which had been highly recommended by Rabbi Benny.
Over that weekend, I had a chance to bond with Rabbi Rapoport and he shared with me some of his dreams and plans. As it turns out, his Chabad currently owns a beautiful 20-acre property outside Scranton that they are developing into a beautiful and year-round kosher destination for the Orthodox community. They dedicated the main building in 2015 and will be expanding significantly in the years ahead. Rabbi Benny is a builder and a doer, and is completely dedicated to the Jewish community in Northeast Pennsylvania and beyond.
This year, Rabbi Benny is looking to do something a bit different for Shabbat Chanukah, in which I think many families within our readership and community will be interested. He has reached a deal with the brand-new Kalahari Pocono Resort—which also has the distinction of having North America’s largest indoor water park—for the weekend of Shabbat Chanukah, December 15-17. Rabbi Benny and his team will be hosting between 250 and 400 guests for the weekend, and I am confident that the food, ruach and overall experience will be a unique and enjoyable one for families and children of all ages.
Rabbi Benny and Chany showed me and our family last year that they can organize a quality all-inclusive getaway event, and we are looking forward to attending this year. The weekend will include separate swimming hours for men and spa hours for women, acapella by The Shabbatones led by Aryeh Pearlman, and day camp organized by Playland Parties from Passaic. Of course, there will also be the wealth of activities in Kalahari’s 30,000-square-foot indoor family entertainment center and tons of outdoor attractions in the beautiful Pocono Mountains.
I invite you to look at the Chanukah Kalahari ad on page 66 to learn more about the weekend, or visit www.chanukahkalahari.com for more info and pricing. Or you can just call or email my friend Rabbi Benny at 570-587-3300 or [email protected].
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Co-Publisher, The Jewish Link of New Jersey