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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interviewee: Rabbi Mayer I. Herman
Interviewer: Polly Redford
April 18, 1967
R: This is April 18, 1967. I am interviewing Rabbi Mayer Herman in the
MARTINIQUE Hotel on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. Rabbi Herman has told
me that he has no objection to a duplicate copy of this tape going into the archive
of the University of Miami library. Is that so, Dr. Herman?
R: All right. I would like you to repeat something that you told me the other day about
the original temple in Jerusalem at the time of Solomon. It was quite a thing for
people from all over the Roman or civilized [world].
H: You will find that in [the book of I and II] Kings in the Old Testament, the
dedication of the temple in Jerusalem that King Solomon built. He dedicated it to
be a temple not only for the children of Israel but also for the peoples of the world.
Architecturally speaking, the building was so arranged that there was a special
courtyard set aside, so to speak, that was known as the Courtyard for the Gentiles.
Visitors from all over the world, when they were in Judea, would come to it. It was
a highlight of tourists. They would visit the temple and see its elaborate ceremonies.
R: The court was arranged in such a manner that the Gentiles could stay outside and
see the services?
H: In other words, the architecture of the building was so that there was a courtyard for
the citizens of Judea and a courtyard for the Gentiles. They were the same size, one
right next to each other. The reason for the separation was that the Jewish people,
the children of Israel, would respond to the psalms with the Levites, and the Gentiles
did not know the responses, so the service had a congregation that participated in
the service, while the Gentile community was there mainly as observers.
R: Yes. Well, there was some sort of arch or courtyard through which the people in
the Gentile court could see the service.
H: Oh, naturally. The temple itself was elevated. The people were standing in the
lower platform, so everything could be observed, both the sacrifice and the singing
and chanting of the psalms, which was accompanied by music.
R: What was the sacrifice at that period of history?
H: There were many kinds of sacrifices. In other words, they were manifold for
particular purposes. There was a sacrifice for the people. In other words, the priests
that were officiating would bring a sacrifice daily for the trespasses of the people as
a community. Then individuals brought sacrifices for particular reasons:
thanksgiving, for example, if something took place in their life that they wished to
give a thanksgiving. Or if they committed a serious crime or a trespass, they would
bring a sin offering. They would bring a peace offering. In other words, there were
various sorts of sacrifices, just like the prayer. It took the position of prayer today.
R: Were the sacrifices themselves in the form of money or animals?
H: They were in the form of either animals (fowl) or even the produce of the land--
R: What happened to these? In some of the other places at the time, these things were
R: They were all burned?
H: Burned, except for certain sacrifices the officiating priests got a portion of that
R: Similar to the Catholic Mass now.
H: Well, the Mass is a follow-through of the sacrifice of old. That is why it is called a
R: Because there is the body and the blood and the substance. So in the temple, then,
the priest might eat a little portion of the ritual meat or whatever it was as a part
of his [role in the sacrifice].
H: That is right. And it is all clearly defined in the Old Testament in [the book of]
Leviticus of what sacrifices they were permitted to eat and what they were not
permitted to eat, and what portion of the animal they were permitted to eat and
what portion they were not permitted to eat.
R: The time when this was going on, when the activities of the temple were at its height
and when this would have been its great golden era, was, from the point of view as
we date Christian history, in what century?
H: Sacrifices ..
R: Not so much the sacrifices; leave aside sacrifices for the moment. [I mean] when
the temple of Solomon was at its height.
H: Well, that was the first temple, when the children of Israel had the first
commonwealth. That particular community was destroyed by invasion of Babylon.
The custom [was,] like all over the world, that even took place in the Americas,
when a country conquered another country, they took out the natives of the country
and resettled others. They [the Israelites] were taken into exile in Babylon.
R: That was the time of exile in Babylon when we have these stories of Nebuchadnezzar
H: That is right, and there was a return. It is all in the Bible. There was a return
during Darius's rule, when Persia, the Medes, was powerful and succeeded Babylon
as a world power. They permitted the children of Israel to return. Under Ezra and
Nehemiah, they came back--not all, but a number--and they organized a second
commonwealth and rebuilt the temple. That was the second temple. They followed
the same service pattern. Christianity was not in existence at the time. Christianity
came into existence toward the close of the second commonwealth. According to
tradition--historically we do not know how true it is--the year 70 in this common era
was the year when Rome sacked Jerusalem and burned the second temple. That is
when this particular type of service stopped.
R: What I was trying to trace down was at the time of the first commonwealth, when
Solomon's temple was built, was what time? I am trying to find out what kind of
people would have been the religious tourists, so to speak, of the era that would
have been in that court of the Gentiles.
H: Of Solomon's temple?
H: At that particular time there were the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Ethiopians,
R: This was before the great day of Greece and Rome, then.
H: Oh, certainly. It was the Macedonians, and that was only during the second
commonwealth, the second temple, under Alexander the Great.
R: I see. So the time of the first commonwealth was about 500 B.C.?
H: Oh, it was about 500 B.C.
R: That is what I wanted to trace. So one of the sights of the early ancient world [was
to go see the temple and the service], just as people go now to Rome. Whether they
are Catholics, they see the Pope and the ceremony and St. Peter, and it is one of the
H: And that held true in the second commonwealth, of the second temple. [It is] exactly
the same. It was a sight for the people, especially from the point of view of religious
behavior patterns in the ancient world, when the rest of the world were worshippers
of local gods. If they traveled to any city, they thought if they did not pay some sort
of homage to the local god, that misfortune would fall upon them because their local
god did not have authority where they were.
R: I see. Of course. They did not have a universal god.
H: That is the idea. So wherever they went, they paid some particular homage to the
local deity. Naturally, when they came to Judea, they felt it was an obligation on
their part for their journey to be successful or whatever they came for that they had
to pay some sort of homage.
R: Oh, I see. Well, then that would also explain the interest in the temple and the
Courtyard of the Gentiles.
Well, to leave the first and second commonwealth and to come down to Miami
Beach, you were also telling me, and another thing I would like to get on tape
because I was quite interested in it, was the things that you were telling me the other
day about the various hotels in the area which this year are having Passover services,
some of which are kosher and some of which are not kosher, and the reasons for
it. If you would just elaborate on that, I would appreciate it.
H: We ourselves call Jewish people a peculiar people, in that our life is involved with
certain family practices which involve our past history and also certain religious
practices. So most Jewish people hold on to certain things which keep them alive
to the situation that they are Jewish. It ties them to a background and reminds them
of their childhood and living with their parents or their grandparents. No matter
what their religious behavior is at the present time, whether it be Orthodox or
Conservative or Reform, they still like to follow certain things which make them
comfortable with themselves, especially memories.
R: Well, it is a question, too, of maintaining Jewish identity, is it not?
H: That is right. Especially the Passover, which is a festival that is close to the human
heart because it is a festival of freedom. It is a festival that speaks the idea of
freedom, and it has been observed over 3,000 years. It probably is the oldest holiday
that we have in the world today whose theme is particularly one subject which is
close to every heart, and that is freedom of religion.
R: From the theological point of view, is it an older festival of the High Holidays?
H: Certainly. It is the first religious observance of the Jewish people as a people. It
was given to them even before the Ten Commandments, before Sinai.
R: As I remember the story of Passover, there was going to be a massacre, and was it
an angel who put the mark? Someone put the marks on the door so that these
houses were "passed over."
H: The children of Israel were in Egypt. If you recall the incident as described in the
Bible, they went there because of a famine in the land of Canaan. Jacob and his
children came to settle in Egypt, and they were finally enslaved in Egypt and made
part and parcel of the civilized community of Egypt wherein there was a master and
a slave. They were a slave community. They were slaves in Egypt, according again
to the way the Bible relates it, for 210 years.
Then Moses came upon the scene, and he, from all sides and circumstances, must
have been a very obstinate person and a good leader. He brought the idea of liberty
and freedom to the children of Israel. Leaving aside the plagues of Egypt, which
brought about the final deliverance, there was a great deal of leadership involved.
He had to have followers, and there were many of them. Numerically speaking,
according to the Bible, we are told that the number that left Egypt with him (who
were all slaves) were 600,000 males over the age of twenty. If you break it down
into family units, there were close to 2 million people who left Egypt with him to
seek freedom, to get out of slavery and out of bondage.
The Passover celebration, not as we do it today, but two-thirds of it, at least, is
explicitly described at that particular time before they left Egypt, the moment before
they left Egypt, about the unleavened bread and about the bitter herbs, and the
Paschal lamb. That is the first religious command that the Jewish people received
as a people, before the giving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai.
R: When we are told Passover, does that not refer to the ...
H: The name itself is a slip of a particular theme. In other words, in order to
dramatically describe it, the last plague was the death of all first-born in Egypt as
a sign of the displeasure of God. Moses, in trying to impress upon the Jewish people
the greatness of their deliverance, told them about preparing a sacrifice of a Paschal
lamb, which was not really a sacrifice in the sense that it was burned to a god, but
that it was a family parting. They were told that they should get a lamb barely a
year old, within the first year, without blemish, and observe it carefully for four days,
from the tenth of the month until the fourteenth of the month. Then [they were to]
slaughter it and roast it and eat it as a family parting. That is the Paschal lamb.
To further impress the people, he said, "After you slaughter the lamb, take the blood
of the lamb and put some of it on the doorposts of your home so that all Egypt will
recognize that these particular homes that have the smear of the blood of the
Paschal lamb are the children of Israel whose God is going to free from being in
bondage and slavery, so the angel of death will pass over your home."
R: "Pass over." That is where [the name comes from]."
H: That is how the name came to be.
R: Is that also an origin to the phrase "the blood of the lamb"?
H: No. That already is Christological.
R: Because of the sacrifice of the lamb of God, so to speak.
H: In other words, it is already given as true. Its foundation is in the Passover, but the
seder that the Christian community calls the Last Supper, wherein they use the
symbols of the Passover but give it a Christological meaning, [is the true Jewish
Passover]. The Paschal lamb is the lamb of God, and the blood became the blood
of God. The unleavened bread became the body of God, which is completely
strange to Jewish religious motifs, this Christological [meaning].
R: I see. But it is fascinating to trace how all these things came about. So the Jewish
people were celebrating the Passover in a sense, at least the roots; the foundation
of Passover had been laid before the Ten Commandments.
H: Oh, certainly.
R: Then at the time of the exodus they obtained the Ten Commandments when Moses
went on the mountain.
H: Yes. They were in the wilderness for forty years.
R: So presumably they must have celebrated the Passover in the wilderness, too.
H: Yes, the celebrated the Passover in the wilderness, but not too often because they
did not have the lamb. It will be interesting to you if you are following this
particular thought that there is a group of people today in Israel that is not regarded
as Jewish people anymore but are called Samaritans.
R: Are all Samaritans descendants of them? I do not know. Of course, you know the
parable of the Good Samaritan in the Christian thing. The descendants of the
Samaritans are still there?
H: There is a community of Samaritans in Israel that on the Passover eve still bring out
the Paschal lamb sacrifice today.
R: Oh, for heaven's sake.
H: And they have a priest
R: I did not know that. Extraordinary.
H: The name Samaritan is simply a geographical connotation.
R: Yes, from Samaria.
H: At the close of the first commonwealth there was a civil war raging, and the kingdom
[of Israel] was divided in two: one was a southern kingdom, and one was a northern
kingdom. The capital city of the northern kingdom was Jerusalem, and the capital
city of the southern kingdom was Samaria. The people who came from the southern
kingdom after a while were called Samaritans.
R: I see. So that is how the Samaritans came to be known not as charitable people, I
am sure. Well, now then, this seder that I am going to attend What does the
word seder mean?
H: A program to be followed.
R: And through the years what must have been this original feast of liberation has been
added to through all these centuries to its present form, and there is a very strict
pattern. You gave me this book, and I must confess ...
H: There is a very strict pattern in the Orthodox observance. That pattern we do not
change. Orthodoxy follows the traditional pattern, and that pattern has not changed
for 2,000 years, [or] at least 1,500 years. But there are many branches of Judaism
today that have revised the Haggadah, the book that we use every seder night. The
Reformed have theirs. There is another one that the Reconstructionist would use.
R: Would these be analogous to what you would say the various Christian groups have
done with the Mass? Each one has its own version of it, but the grand design
follows pretty much what was the ancient original.
H: Yes. In other words, they updated it. For example, we have had since the bondage
in Egypt .. We have had in our time the Nazi Holocaust, so they updated-it to
include that. What the Orthodox have done we to not make it part of the Haggadah.
I just take about a five-minute break in the ritual, and I tell the people that those
five minutes we are going to stand in memorial.
Now, this year I am going to add a second phase to the seder to bring it up to date.
You are probably aware--most people in this country are aware--of the problems that
the Jewish people have in Communist Russia, so I am going to take about a minute
of the seder program to bring this situation to the attention of the participants of the
seder. To formalize it in a religious sense, I am going to take one matzo and set
it aside and call it the matzo of hope, that this matzo shall stay for a year here
without being touched, and that it be the matzo of hope that the Jewish citizens of
Communist Russia will be given freedom and equality for the rest of the people.
R: Of course, under the Jewish system, the rabbi has a good deal of [freedom for] each
congregation, and indeed each congregation itself has a great deal of freedom. You
would not, of course, change your Haggadah, but you could add to it.
H: The rabbi is the complete authority in the Jewish religion. He has no superior to
tell him what [to do].
R: And yet you do have conferences to more or less decide on what you all are going
H: The general pattern.
R: Let me ask you [something], then, Dr. Herman, as long as we are on the subject of
the branches of Judaism. You yourself are a rabbi to an Orthodox congregation.
Do you have an Orthodox congregation up north? What is your position?
H: When I started I was an Orthodox rabbi and was active in the Orthodox rabbinate
for thirty-two years. I became a little bit ill, and I retired. I am the emeritus. So
at the present time I am involved in the MARTINIQUE Hotel as a sort of a hobby
because I feel following my ideals that I would like [to] create--and I did--a hotel
wherein Jewish people who are Orthodox will find a comfortable atmosphere,
wherein the dining room is strictly kosher, where there is a synagogue attached to
the hotel where there are day services and Sabbath services, and where all festivals
and holidays of Jewish Orthodox tradition are adhered to and observed.
R: So there are so many people that come here to Florida that you moved after your
busy, active career up north. Did you just retire and come down here for vacation?
H: I was active thirty-two years in the borough of the Bronx of New York City with my
congregation. I came down here as a visitor seven years ago for my health, and I
stayed here three months. I was unhappy with the way the Orthodox Jewish
community finds itself in Miami Beach because the few Orthodox kosher hotels that
were in existence were the older hotels, decayed buildings. One had to make do
with what one wanted to observe as religion. So I decided to find a hotel which
would let an Orthodox Jew feel when he comes to Miami Beach that he is a first-
class citizen instead of a second-class Jew.
R: Now, that is precisely what interested me, because I was very surprised [at] your ad,
which I saw when I was up at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. I had a copy of
that weekly magazine that has been going in Chicago for so long, and I saw a sign
that said "the kosher hotel of the year." Judging from the address, I knew that it was
a much more substantial thing. Of course, usually when we think of kosher hotels
in Miami Beach, if you live in Dade County, you think very largely of the hotels on
South Beach for retirees and people who must live very modestly.
H: Well, that is what exactly what I wanted to create for the Jewish community, because
knowing the Jewish community from my past activity in the rabbinate, I knew that
there are thousands upon thousands of Jewish people, both young and old, who were
very dissatisfied with Miami Beach as far as their vacations were concerned. They
felt very unhappy when they came here.
R: I will say something, and then I hope you will correct me. Would it be accurate to
say that there are many people in the Jewish community who wish to maintain a
more traditional life, a more--how shall I say something that is not so flashy and
godless, so to speak, as some of the image that is created by these modern hotels?
R: A lot of them come to Miami Beach.
H: For the weather and for the bathing. They do not want the other part of the beach.
They are not interested in the flashiness of it. They want to be able to find a hotel
wherein they can live as they live at home. These people come from very affluent
part of the Jewish community, and money is not an objection to them, providing they
can get what they are looking for. It is a simple thing: a family atmosphere, a
religious atmosphere, a wholesome atmosphere where they can follow their
R: Well, I think this is fine to know, because there is a great deal, as I am sure you are
aware, of resentment, I think, in the country at large, or at least not resentment but
a kind of a laughter at the beach as being so very gaudy and godless, and nobody
hears about things of this sort.
H: Let me give you an example. At the MARTINIQUE every morning at eight o'clock,
we have a religious service which is very well attended. Every evening we have two
services. Every Friday night we have a service; every late Friday night the people
gather in the dining room for a family participation in observance of the Sabbath,
which we call a seudah, wherein they sing songs, discuss a vital topic, whatever is
current in the country or of a religious nature. Every Saturday morning we have two
services. That means we have more of that type of atmosphere.
R: Tell me about your clientele. Are they for the most part older people?
H: I would say the clientele of the whole beach is mostly older people.
R: [laughter] Well, that is quite right.
H: Following the same pattern of all the hotels. In other words, [most of our clientele
are] older people because they have reached a time in life when they can afford to
take long vacations.
R: Well, that it true. If you are young and have three or four children at home, you
cannot afford to take ten days off to come down here.
H: And the younger people take shorter vacations. There is no difference between the
MARTINIQUE kosher hotel and the other hotels. The clientele is exactly the same
as far as the age brackets are concerned. I cannot see any difference. We have
amongst our clientele people from Canada and the United States and South
America, young and old--children, teenagers, older, and very old.
R: How long have you been in operation as a kosher hotel?
H: This is the second year.
R: So you have not had time enough for people ... I am sure many of them came back,
but you have not had time to build up a faithful following.
H: Oh, yes, because in my background in my time I lectured all over the Americas and
met most of the leading Jewish Orthodox people in the country. Through the
advertising campaign, from the moment we opened our doors we have always been
R: Oh, really? How wonderful for you! While we are on the subject of that, what is
your personal background? You were born in the United States and came here?
H: Yes, I was born in this country [and] trained in this country. I went to college and
got my undergraduate work in this country; I did my university work in this country.
I studied for the rabbinate in this country and was ordained in this country.
R: So you are a pure, 100 percent American product. Was it in the New York area?
I am curious where you went to [school]. Did you go entirely to religious school, or
did you attend [secular schools as well]?
H: No. In my educational background I attended even a Catholic university.
R: Oh, no. Really?
H: St. Johns.
R: St. Johns in Annapolis?
H: No, in New York--Brooklyn--from which university I have a law degree.
R: Oh, how interesting. Perfectly fascinating. What were some of your other
universities and colleges?
H: City College, New York University, Columbia.
R: That is the greatest. You cannot do much better than that. And St. Johns. That
is fascinating. Then for your rabbinical studies you went where? Also in New York?
H: In New York City. I attended what we call rabbinical seminaries--yeshiva led by
HEILEN BERLIN and yeshiva led by ITZHAK ALCONEN. That is theological
seminaries. In other words, in order to become an Orthodox rabbi, you have to
start when you are at
R: I know. It is a tremendous, difficult [endeavor].
H: You go through many, many years until you are mature. Then you get into the
R: And I noticed that you used the title doctor. Do you have a doctor of divinity?
H: I have a doctor in divinity and a Ph.D.
R: My heavens. Wow! [You are] such an educated man.
You said you came down here seven years ago, but your hotel has been open for
only two years, so there must have been a five-year interim. What [happened during
those years]? [Did] you mature these plans? How did this all come about?
H: I came here as a guest of Miami Beach for the climate and the weather and my
health, my wife and I. We usually spent about three and a half months here. I was
very unhappy with the kosher hotels that I found at the beach.
R: And you were staying at the kosher hotels?
R: I thought you might have rented an apartment or something.
H: No, we stayed at kosher hotels. Then for a while we rented an apartment. But
whatever we did, I was very unhappy with the conditions, so I decided to create a
condition wherein if I would be happy, other Jewish people will be happy.
R: Without prying unduly into your personal affairs, may I ask, how was it possible to
organize such a hotel financially?
H: By getting associates and friends of mine to go in with me. We raised enough money
to be able to purchase the MARTIN.
R: Well, that is what I was wondering, if you actually owned the hotel. Many hotels,
of course, are leased, and it might have been a management deal.
H: No, this is ours.
R: And then once having owned it, you were then able to operate it on ...
H: ... on my personal philosophy.
R: What about the mechanics of running a hotel on Miami Beach? Of course, running
a kosher hotel in Miami Beach, you must have many things that are different, but
on the other hand you must have many problems and situations that are the same
whatever kind of hotel you are running. For instance, you have to get people to
make the beds and dust the floors.
H: By organizing, having a good housekeeper in charge of her department.
R: Is that Mrs. [Herman]? [laughter]
H: Mrs. WISTERMAN.
R: Oh, I see.
H: And having a good engineer to take care of his department and a good steward to
take care of the kitchen department and a good maitre d' to take care of the dining
room and a good desk department with a good secretary in order to run the front
desk and so on. All it requires is organization.
R: How were you able to find good help? That is a tremendous problem on the Beach.
H: Not if you know how to deal with people and you know how to look for them. I
think one of the good things about any FRENCHMAN in the United States is they
are all very good organizers. [laughter]
R: They certainly have to be. [laughter] Well, for the purposes of the general public,
then in what respects would the management and ownership of a kosher hotel be
different from a hotel that was not kosher?
H: Well, primarily there are two departments that require particular supervision. The
first, naturally, would be the food department--the kitchen and the dining room. So
you employ a knowledgeable person who acts as an which means he is a
supervisor to see that the food is served and prepared by kosher products and kosher
R: Well, as to kosher products, there are many kosher supply houses in this area.
H: Right, and then Miami Beach is one of the few cities in the United States, that I
found very happily when I came here, that has a kosher food inspection department.
New York City has one, too. Many cities have, because somewhere [there is] a law
of giving the people what you advertise. If you advertise a particular commodity, the
city wants its people to get back what you advertise.
R: In other words, if you [advertise that you] have a kosher meat market, that has to
be kosher or else it is false advertising.
H: It is false advertising, and they commit a crime if they do not [have a kosher meat
market]. The city of Miami Beach has a kosher inspector.
R: Oh. Then you were able to get someone with the religious, strong Jewish training
to be your...
H: Under my direction to look for what is necessary to operate a kosher department.
R: Now, how about your actual kitchen help?
H: The actual kitchen help are told at meetings how they should operate. You run a
complete separate kitchen which is only dairy. You have to run two kitchens, one
for meat and another kitchen for dairy.
R: What happens with things that are neither, for instance, like salads?
H: You have a pantry department, so you have three departments.
R: Who actually does the work, I mean, when it comes to peeling potatoes? Where do
you get your stock of ordinary hotel help?
H: They could be any ordinary help. The only people that have to have some
experience with kosher food are the chef and the cooks and the baker.
R: So these would all be Jewish people who ...
H: No, they are not Jewish people.
R: They are not?
H: They have worked in their prior experience. You look for the kind of help that has
worked in kosher hotels, and then you meet with them and tell them exactly how
things are to be organized. You identify the utensils and the pots and pans and the
dishes in different colors and different patterns which are meat, which are dairy, and
which are neither. They use these particular dishes and utensils and pots and pans.
R: Just for example, what nationality or background is your chef?
R: He is a French chef, and he is not Jewish.
R: But he is accustomed to the [kosher tradition]. Well, what about the head of your
H: I do not know what Neil's background is. I think he is Irish-American.
R: And what about your ordinary kitchen people, the people who scrub up and the
people who [take care of the mundane tasks]?
H: I never ask anybody what their religious background is.
R: I do not mean religious background. I was wondering. So many of the hotels have
a great many Cuban people working and many Negro people that work, and I simply
wondered if you have Cubans and Negroes.
H: Yes, yes. We make no distinction. [We are] completely integrated. That is one of
my philosophies and principles: I do not believe in or approve of any sort of
discrimination in any form whatsoever. You just try to get the people who have had
experience working around kosher food.
R: I simply did not know. I sort of had the feeling that naturally if you were going to
be entrusted with particularly the meat and dairy, which is so critical, that a Jewish
person would have to do it.
H: No. You have present all the time in the kitchen the supervisor who is a Jewish
person of learning and understanding who watches to see that they do not make any
errors or mistakes.
R: That is from the kitchen point of view. You then have to have, just as a kosher
home would, two sets of dishes, do you not?
H: Yes, and then separate dishes for the Passover.
R: They are never used except for that time of year? You have a whole set for that?
R: Forgive me if it sounds like just carrying this too far, but it seems to me that many
of these ancient traditions must have a little difficulty in the modern world. For
instance, do you have to have separate dishwashers?
H: Yes, we have two dishwashers, one a dairy dishwasher and one a meat dishwasher.
R: How far back does this go? To what extent is it carried? I am sure there some
people who would be surprised to hear that, although you have two sets of dishes,
you have two dishwashers.
H: Those who are not knowledgeable [would not understand that], but if you are to
carry the dietary laws to their proper conclusion everything has to be separate. The
stoves are separate.
R: The stoves are separate, too?
H: The stoves are separate, the dishwashing units are separate--everything is separate.
R: Then, of course, the towels with which you dry them must be separate, too.
H: Separate. Everything.
R: As far as the physical plant is concerned, are you able to do this on one kitchen, or
do you have two?
H: We have two kitchens since I took over the MARTINIQUE. I pulled out the wall
and put in a dairy kitchen.
R: I see. It is perfectly fascinating. Of course, I had heard from many Jewish friends
about the running of a kosher home. As a housekeeper, I can say it presents
tremendous problems and a great added burden on the housewife, who I am sure
is willing to do it as part of the tradition. But simply from a convenience standpoint,
it is more difficult to operate a kosher home, and I should imagine that a hotel
would be, too.
H: Certainly. Everything in life is difficult if you are to follow a particular ideological
way of life.
R: Well, there again, from a practical standpoint, I know, for instance, many of the very
rigid requirements and the fact that many portions of the animal cannot be used
leads, generally speaking, to higher prices in a kosher meat market than in an
ordinary one. So is this true also in a hotel? You have to have two kitchens, you
have to have a double staff. This adds, then, to the price.
H: It adds to the expense of the personnel; it adds to the expense of buying the
commodities. [For] everything you buy you pay a premium because of the fact that
it has to come supervised as kosher from its source.
R: [This may be] a foolish question to ask, [but] how much would you estimate that
H: I would say about another third.
R: It adds approximately a third to the price of the food.
R: Now, are there any other parts of the Orthodox ritual in the management of the
hotel, or is it just the food?
H: Well, we run a complete synagogue with everything necessary for a synagogue, with
sacred scrolls, the ark, the cantor--for example, for the Passover we hired a cantor
and a choir to chant and sing the tradition [for] the ritual of Passover. You have to
get a complete library of prayer books, Bibles, of the Talmud so that people
can--if they want to study--have a library to go to study.
R: And you were able to use these great things. Are you head of the corporation, so
H: [I am] the president.
R: You run it as a corporation.
R: For your library [and] for your synagogue and the other things, at least the hotel
would have had some sort of entertainment room that would have been suitable for
that. You did not have to, say, remodel to make your [synagogue].
H: No, we found, fortunately, in the MARTINIQUE that they had a Bamboo Room that
was used for convention meeting purposes, and we use that as a synagogue. We
have two synagogue departments. It is part of the religious duty of every person to
give to charity, so we have a charity fund. We collect and give a great deal of money
to various charity funds.
R: Locally here in Dade County?
H: Locally. We participated in the United Way campaign here and a few hospitals,
home for the aged, the combined Jewish Appeal here.
R: Well, there never is any lack of causes.
H: We give away thousands upon thousands of dollars.
R: To the rest, presumably the largest trouble and expense [is the kitchen]. Of course,
from your point of view this is an obligation and a privilege, but if you were a hotel
manager and not Jewish, you would feel that the greatest added expense and amount
of effort would go into the kitchen, and then secondly the arrangements that you
have with your synagogue department. Now, are there any other aspects of Jewish
life that [you concern yourself with]?
H: I had to train the service desk and the desk at the front about the Sabbath. No
smoking is permitted in the MARTINIQUE on the entire Sabbath.
R: Not even in your room?
H: We cannot follow private people in [their rooms].
R: But I mean in public rooms?
H: [There is no smoking allowed] in public rooms, and they have to watch out for that.
I had the Otis Elevator Company convert one of the elevators because they are self-
service elevators, and [we needed] to make one elevator permissible to be used on
R: So you would not have to have an operator working.
H: Or nobody has to press any buttons. In other words, they created for me one
elevator. On the Sabbath the key is turned on which turns on an automatic switch
[so] that the elevator goes up and down and stops on each and every floor.
R: So you do not even have to push the button.
R: I remember attending a service in, of all places, Springfield, Massachusetts, in an
Orthodox synagogue, and there was a question about who was going to turn the light
switch on. Since this was a religion class from the college I was attending that came
(the minister was not Jewish), they said to the professor, "Professor, would you mind
turning on the switch?" He happened to be there, and it was handy. I guess they
had not done it in the right way. So I am familiar with this idea of [not working on
the Sabbath]. So you have an absolutely automatic elevator that [does not require
any work on the part of your patrons].
R: Are there any other things or aspects of the service you [provide, like] things in the
H: Well, the people in their rooms are cautioned that they cannot bring in any outside
R: I see. So it is not only a kosher dining room but the whole hotel [is kosher].
H: The whole hotel, the whole structure [is kosher]. The stores that are in the hotel
have to close down Friday at sundown and open Saturday night. They cannot stay
open during the Sabbath.
R: I have not had a chance to examine the hotel.
I know from a sociological point of view the Jewish community seems to produce
fewer alcoholics than perhaps any other group in the United States. Do you have
a bar here?
H: No, I took it out. I destroyed it. The only alcoholic beverage that we use in the
hotel is for sacramental services.
R: So if somebody wants a highball before dinner ...
H: They have to go outside.
R: They have to go outside. Can they have that in their rooms?
H: Oh, yes. That is not against the religion. There is no prohibition in our religion.
R: Well, you do not need it. I do not know what the secret of your success is, but I
know that this is famous.
H: The difficulty we found here in the MARTINIQUE was when I came in here it had
a very large night club which was called the Carriage Room. When Miami Beach
hotels were built, they did not build a dining room. They all built restaurants
because they had a first and second and third service. I did not want that in my
hotel, so I took the night club and rebuilt the hotel and made it part of the dining
room. I have a dining room so that the MARTINIQUE can serve one setting.
People who come to a hotel like the MARTINIQUE want to sit down at a table and
know that that is their table, their seat, their waitress, their busboy.
R: That is the way I feel, too. I like that.
H: So there are no other second services and so forth.
R: You have to have a bigger dining room.
H: [You need] a bigger dining room and [you need to] increase the personnel in the
dining room. We had to hire so many more waitresses and busboys to carry the
complete dining room at one sitting.
R: Let me ask you this, if I may. After I speak with you I would like to take a little
informal tour of the rooms here. Do you have any literature on the hotel? That
would probably save me describing your rooms and your activities and all this and
that, and it will save me from taking up your much more valuable time with stuff
that I could find out about how many rooms you have. Generally speaking, what
is your total capacity?
H: [There are] 145 rooms.
R: That averages out to about how many guests if you are full?
H: Roughly, I would say about 300.
R: So by and large you would have ... I am sure this season you would probably have
more people. I think that will answer the technical questions without taking your
time. Now, there was something that you were telling me a while back, and that was
about our discussion the other time that many Jewish people, even though they
would not lead completely Orthodox lives all year--[they] would, [especially] at this
holiday and at the High Holidays in the fall, return, so to speak, to the ancestral
H: I do not think it is a pattern only in Jewish people.
R: No, of course not.
H: I think it is a pattern of the American sociological picture of how we live in this
country. Many people, no matter what their religious bent is, might be lax most of
the time of the year, and at particular times of the year would become extremely
R: Yes, just like the Christians on Easter and for midnight Mass [on Christmas Eve].
Even a Catholic, if he goes to church at no other time, will go at those times.
H: I find in my experience that the pattern of the people of a country is practically the
same. For [an] example I can give you a little incident. I have been operating
children's camps for over forty years.