Passover at Sandbridge. Who knew?

Hundreds of orthodox Jewish families rented homes in the Sandbridge section of Virginia Beach for the duration of this year’s eight-day Passover holiday. Families from outside of Virginia brought their traditions and kosher meals to Sandbridge, with 10 synagogues hosting prayer services in homes. Some borrowed Torah scrolls from Jewish Virginia Beach.

Kosher deliveries to the area were constant thanks to the coordinated efforts of several out-of-town caterers and local business Cater613. A dedicated Facebook group and WhatsApp chat kept visitors informed of area happenings and daily minyan schedules.

“Four or five years ago, we went to Motor World over Passover with our children and grandchildren. I saw all of these religious families and asked where they were staying,” says local Jon Becker, who just finished his third Sandbridge Passover in April. Most visitors are from New York and New Jersey and families tend to be multi-generational, says Becker. The majority are observant Jews, and often two or three families rent a house together.

Jewish Virginia Beach assisted a specialized team from New York to ensure compliance with kosher standards in the rented vacation homes. “A small team of Israeli guys with blow torches and counter covers showed up to get the kitchen ready,” says Dan Peck, a first-time visitor to Sandbridge from New Jersey. “The whole experience was incredibly professional.”
Becker shares that the WhatsApp group is the only source that publicly unites this influx of tourists. “No one organizes this. There’s no formal program. No rabbi, not one person in charge.”

Rabbi Meir Lessoff of Jewish Virginia Beach draws parallels to his experience in Orlando, Fla., where a similar trend during Passover led to the growth of Orthodox Jewish tourism. Lessoff believes that there is the potential for growth in this area, too, and he intends to promote tourism as a resource to benefit Tidewater’s Jewish community.

“Coming to Sandbridge for Passover is more affordable than going to Orlando,” adds Peck. He and his family plan to return next year.

“This is the most people I’ve seen,” says Becker, referring to the tourist population of Sanbridge during Passover this year. “When you want to be social beyond your family, people can walk down the beach and kibitz.

“Sandbridge finally caught on,” he adds. “We’ve watched the rental prices go up over the years.”