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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
INTERVIEW WITH RABBI HERMAN /
APRIL 18, 1967
INTERVIEWER: POLLY REDFORD
I: You were telling me about.....
H: Naturally, being that we run a kosher camp, most of our children
are Jewish. We have the experience with Jew's children' friends who are
not Jewish, who wanted to come to our camp. I felt and Mrs. Herman felt
that it was our duty to let them know. For a particular situation, we have
a family who are Catholic who wanted to send their two boys. I felt that
I would let them know that we run a kosher camp; I told them on Friday we
serve a meat meal. And the answer I received was typically Jewish. "Oh,
we are not very observant on the outside but at home we are.
I: In other words, an American Jew would be more like an American Catholic
than like a French Jew.
H: That is the idea.
I: I attendadthe-------Sinai in Paris, at the end of service, everyone was
rushing up to one another, in a very French manner and kissing each other
on the cheek and saying, "bon ami, bon ami!!"
H: And even the French rabbi dress like the parish priest.
I: And they came with the same beadle and everything. And the most beautiful Fr.
sermon I have ever heard. This was an orthodox; a big one in Paris. I don't
know the name of it; they had a beautiful set of candelabrum.
H: You will find the pattern of people never change. I think it is the
climate of the country which is the pattern of behavior of all pattern
et all people.
I: Yes, I am sure it is. Well, if you take any who have had---------;
what surprised me was that from my point of view when we were at
this service I am speaking about, when you looked at the people,
there were a few bearded men. But, when you generally looked at
the people, they did not look Jewish. And when you look at the American
Je*ish people, they don't look Jewish so to speak, they look American
first then Jewish second. You were telling me about a number of the
hotels that this year were maintaining different kinds of services.
Some of the hotels that were not kosher, but were maintaining kosher
services and other hotels that were maintaining other services but which
were not kosher. I wonder if you could elaborate on that.
H: It is following the pattern of Jewish behavior. Most of the hotels in
Miami Beach are non-kosher. But most of the hotels have a Jewish
---- And so these people when it comes to the Sater, not even
for the rest of the Passover week, but particularly for the Sater, want
to have a kosher Sater. And so some of the very lage hotels of the beach
have created a situation wherein they can cater a kosher Sater.
I: How can Biy do that?
H: For example, Dornbell is having a kosher Sater that I know of; the Fountainblue
is having a kosher Sater that I know of. They have instituted a catering
department of a very rabbi kind and what we call tecausher to the department
to get the new dishes necessary in tecausher to the department to get the
proper merchandise to be able to conduct a kosher sale.
I: How can you do that without the kitchens?
H: They prepare everything.
I: Well, can you take a kitchen and in some way purify it?
H: Yes, yes, certainly.
I: They take the kitchen and purify it for the whole holiday.
H: No, not for whole holiday.just for the two nights. If you look
at the local dress you will find who is running a kosher Sater and
who is just running a Sater7- The people who do not care whether
it is kosher but they want to feel that they are in the tradition
of the Passover.
I: Would a not kosher Sater violate the orthodox outline or would they
have changed the service?
H: If they had changed the service, they would probably use a reform
I: Is it very different in point of fact?
H: Well, tis much different, a completely revised edition, leaving out
the things which we speak about because as I said before to you,
Passover we orthodox people have been observing for over 3,000 years.
3,000 years as a nation of the---------. We have lived under a
different climate. Let us take some of the early ones. We lived
under the climate of Persia. We lived in the Dual Diamond. We have
lived under the climate of the rural Bahavians, who are a&alatrists.
And we have lived in the-climatesof Rome and Greece. And so some of
the portions which are recited in the orthodox ; I would rather deal
with this portion of world history. Today the Reform Jewish people
feel they are no longer the Persian community or the Asiac adalatriest
community and so they bright it up to date. So they speak mainly in
the climate of the Western civilized world. While we hold on to our
I: Well, I can see from a theological point of view, these differences
would be very large. To an outsider like myself, if I had attended
three or four stages up and down the beach. Do you think that someone
like myself, an outsider or perhaps a Jewish person who was not very
conversant with his own religion, would notice a great deal of difference?
H: Certainly. You would know that the Orthodox service was completely
in a Hebrew language except where we feel it is important to translate,
mostly in the English language. The Orthodox service deals with subjects
which are strange today--Persian era, Roman era; today, the subject is
a reformed ritual of the ethical principles.
I: But the Orthodox people have had enough backbone wouldn't they know the
meaning of particular sections are?
H: No. Unfortunately, the Orthodox community in America by far and large
know how to read. But they do not know the meaning of the words.
So all our prayers and ---------which we issue to the public has right
next to it an English translation. And those that wish to follow the
reading of what they are reading, follow the English.
I: Like the Catholic missal.
H: Yes, exactly. X0
I: I was wondering to what extent the people in this hotel would know
at the time that time when you are talking in something in Hebrew
one would probably have attended the service for many, many times
and they would say--although they might not be able to translate it
would they know?
H: Some of the older generation and some of the younger generation would
have good schooling, a good education.
I. We were speaking about the various hotels. And you said the Bolder
was planning a kosher Sater and that the Fountainblue had a kitchen
that would be purified for its kosher Sater for only those two days.
Could you sort of raddle off any names of any other hotels; I have
trying to get an idea of how many people will be attending Sater;
how many hotels--how many people attending Sater.
H: A lighter number. That I know of. In the kosher family, If you start
all the way up here, you will have Bellview, The Walden Motel, Fountain-
blue, The Floridian, and going down, Round Plaza, The Coronet, The
Shiran Hotel, the Marsi, Royal P&lm, etc.
I: Would you estimate that there would be about 20-25 hotels that would
have kosher food. Let us add to them those that would be running
H: I would say you had---------or more. The Paromount, the Barcelon,
I: I was trying to figure out, how many people will be attending
activities like this.
H: .Roughly, about 15,000.
I: About how many kosher hotels, I imagine some still call themselves
kosher but might not be pictures as such, how many advertise and
maintain pretty much a kosher situation here on Miami Beach?
H: I would say about 35.
I: And are they full, most of them? All the time?
I: And you would say then about the guests in MAami Beach, not year
round, but during the season, how many observing?
H: Five that would roughly average a 1000 guests a season.
We have other hotels that would cut down to about 400 or 500.
I would say about 17,000 people coming to the beach, on South Beach.
I: Let me ask another question; are a very great majority of these 17,000
H: Naturally, or they would not come here. They might not be what you would
call Orthodox Jews but they would be the realm of their services of Orthodox
that we know as Reform Jews.
I: And no Reform Jew would come to the -----------
H: Because they have believed passion.
I: I donit know.. I would assume that way but people are not always that
logical. So do you believe that a great many of these people would
themselves maintain a cultural or almost-cultural home.
I: What proportion of the American Jewish people, I mean people who maintain
Jewish identity, are in the Orthodox or rather stricter conservative
H: That is kind of a tough question. I would say ...
I: Some of my questions may be judged forward Doctor, ...
H: I would say that I cannot give you any definite figure but let us say
there are 6 million Jews in the United States today, who are strict
I: Well, see whether they are orthodox or conservative.
H: You see the way we can only get these figures together, is because
the business world is interested in making money. And as time is
going on, more and more of the large corporations in the United States
that deal with merchandising have a kosher department; and it is expensive
to operate a kosher department. And they would not be operating a kosher
department if they did not have a receptive audience.
I: Fine, fine. Of course, that would come along that way. Hlw, if you came
to Miami Beach seven years ago, have there been any changes in the last
several years, not speaking in the religious point of viewparticularly.
H: Yes, times since we have come here; you get more people looking for the
better than person looking and coming down here for liquor places and gambling
that kind of thing.
I: You are getting more respectable.
H: I think your high rise are very indicative of the people coming here at
least six months out of the year their home. Most of these high rises,
co-ops are by people out of the state of Florida if not year-round residents
certainly winter residents.
I: The winters are getting longer from that point of view.
How did Miami Beach, in your opinion, come to be such a Jewish community?
When you think of the Jewish clientele at Miami Beach is a bit exagerrated
and there are many people who are not Jewish.
H: I can only give you my personal expression and personal experience.
Most of the Jewish people in the UNited States live in the climate of
the great Jewish pilgramages because they are the industrial cities.
And the weather here is about the only weather they can come to.
Otherwise, it is a personal thing and the way I feel. That is it.
People are'looking for a climate and do not want to go skiing, they do
not wan to go tobaggoning, and the only other climate similar to Miami
Beach is to the extreme west and a little bit too far for people to travel.
Canada has no other place to go to.
I: Well, that is not true of only the Jewish community of Canada. Believe me!
H: I know. I do not know whether you are aware of this that the Israel has become
the winter resort of Europe.
I: Well, I didn't know that.
H: They do not have any place to go to. They have a complete winter resort
with the climate in the winter like to Miami Beach, more constant and
steady as Miami has rainfall. England and other northern countries
come here for the weekend.
H's wife: The Norwegian and Danish are very cold.
I: It is an interesting story of which I am sure you are well aware that
in the beginning a tremendous anti-Semetic prejudice here.
H: I am very aware of this. I grant it was not Miami Beach. Don't blames
Miami Beach for the climate of the United States.
I: This is a subject which I do not know if you want particularly to discuss
it but I am going to have to deal with it in my book unfortunately. There
was a tremendous, tremendous ani-Jewish feeling not only in MAmmi Beach but
throughout Florida. And particularly in thethirtieswhen the first members
of the ..
H: I do not think you are there. There was a tremendous anti-Jewish feeling
in the entire sociological pattern of the United States in the thirties.
I: And you think it was that?
H: Oh, certainly.
I: I have been talking a lot to the early developers.
H: You are talking because your only point in here the early thirties, the
schools, your anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic, colleges, your communities
wherever you went. I will give you a little incident that I once tried
to rent a home for Professor Einstein. A summer home because he was Jewish
in the community where I was a rabbi, which was in the state of New York
and Long Island. So that climate of the thirties was prevalent throughout
the United States; that was the pattern of the United States. And naturally
the state of Florida followed the same pattern.
I: Perhaps, there were many things a little bit different. For example
in the thirties, I can abide by that because I grew up in the thirties,
----------------- for instance the colleges, all right,
they were anti-Jewish, but they had a Jewish program. But down here
they did not even have a program.
H: No, because they were not schools. The schools had a quota, a very small
quota. Especially, the professional schools.
I: Oh, to be a doctor and get into the medical schools in the thirties, in
the Harvard Medical S'shool.
H: Any medical school. They went abroad which was the climate of the United
States. In the thirties, I was invited, I was very friendly with the dean
of the Miw school which I got my degree in. HE wanted me to join him
some golf and the New Yorker nightclub. They would not permit Jewish
people there; I said Dr. Madison I am sorry I have to turn your invitation
down. You know we do not have any Jewish membership there; coming as
his guest I do not go there. This was the climate of the United States.
In the early thirties I was interviewed by a reporter, I will never forget
it, in a town in Pennsylvania, a red-hedded youngman. He used these words
to me, "Rabbi, give me your attitude what you non-Americans feel about us
Protestant Americans." It was the climate of the thirties.
I: It was certainly the climate in Europe. Do you think Americans got
the impression from Europe.
H: No, no. America did not grow up; they still carried with them the
European prejudices because of the immigration coming in with that anti-
Irish, anti-Italian. We were once on a train coming down here
I forgot what year, and sitting across from us in the dining room of the
hotel was the commander of the United Stated Navy who brought up the
subject even though I was Jewish. These Jewish lawyers from New
York took over all over the beach.
I: You do not wear your yarm1ke everything.
H: But, he thought I was a monk or something. You know the story of Admiral
Rickover. They wanted to throw him out of the Navy, because there they
had a rule if the Captain does not get his Passover twice and promotion
he must retire. At the age of 53, he was going to retire. If President
Eisenhower has not come into the situation, we would have lost one of
the valuable men to the safety of the United States. So, I do not think
you want to play the state of Florida. I do not want to take any of the
away. They should not follow the pattern.
I: Miami Beach, in its history, was not developed by Floridians technically.
The people who developed in the original development of Miami Beach
were Carl Fisher, the -----------family and the-----------. The --------
are still alive and kicking and I have had extensive conveistions with them.
and Carl Fisher's business associates. Carl Fisher maintained a non-Jewish
policy because he didn't want ----------lived in. Carl Fisher was a
developer on Long Island; and they had a feeling at that time if Jewish
people got in they were just going to take over.
H: A typical prejudiced reply. Aid Carl Fisher was an exponent of it.
Carl Fisher, if you will pardon me, my feeling,and I have read his back-
ground and I know about him, was a rich and hardened and violent -----------
I: Yes, he had around here-his favorite Jews.
H: Yes, he liked Jews; I know about that too, I was not born yesterday.
Tekorts, the csar of Russia had his favorite Jews too.
I: Well, Fisher had his own outfit; there were about five or six wealthy
Jewish men who were welcome here on Miami Beach although to most people
Fisher would not sell a tiny bit of land. But Alaska and Hertz brought
H: But meanwhile all of the original feeling of the first Jewish hotels
had broken through the ice. And one of the certain number of restrictive
crosses have -------------
I: Also, he had Berhard Gimball, Julius Foshman,
H: You cannot regard these people, you know I used to be a rabbi on one of
the wealthiest communities on Long Island; they are a society unto
themselves. That type of individual is dying out in this country.
They are the billionaires of the world. In other words, you cannot put
Kons, the Schicks, Barucks, all these people --they had a society unto
themselves. A man had to have at least five or six hundred dollars.
I: So that is their life style. I agree with that because it is a sore
point and one which I am not sure. I have been talking with allthese
early people and everybody says "Oh Carl Fisher he didn't take you
he just put all these restrictive clauses in these things just so the
bad element wouldn't go into." Then they all talk about Bernard Gimball
and Foshman and ..
H: He went to such an extent usually a man will be prejudiced until it affects
his pocket. Carl Fisher was prejudiced and he lost millions of dollars
because of his prejudice. He lost milllnns upon millions of------------
He dropped millions of dollars on the beach. A person, if only a matter
of, as you told me, for the sake fr economywige would not let not let it
hurt his pocket.
I; Well, it is a problem and the question is to what extent; now Carl Fisher
was a small-town Indiana farm boy. He never went to school beyond the sixth
grade. He was an attractive, dynamic person, completely self-educated.
I: Do you believe that this, I will tell you a story and then we can discuss
that, do you believe that in the restrictions that Carl Fisher put here
in Miami Beach, were as I understand it, no different from the restrictions
put in Fort Lauderdale at that time. Do you believe..
H: They all tired from the same brush.
I: What brush? In other words, all right so it wasn't matteed--so much
particularly in the modern feeling sincere are more enlightened than
we used to be. Do you believe he was any worse than the other people
of his time?
H: No. But he wasn't better.
I: No. He wasn't better, that's for sure.
H: The regarded themselves as they were the ten lost tribes of
I: You mean in a kind of symbolic of experience?
H: No, no, in a literal sense; they were descendants of the ten lost tribes
of Israel. That is why they took the Old Testament as their major bible.
That is why their early meeting houses were not cultured. That is why
the climate in that part of the country required that they have a star
David in the stained glass window but not a cross. Even today all through
New England and all the churches have what we call a mogendovid, star of
David. They went back to the Old Testament. The first American seal was
pharoh and children of Israel crossing the Red Sea on the ocean is in the
I: Yes, I know. I looked it up in the history books.
H: Furthermore, the early colleges were founded by these people; in fact,
they used Hebrew a great deal. Yale, for example, the coat of arms of
Yale ooen peduim.
I: I don't think I know what the oeen peduim is.
H: This was an article that the high priest wore in the temple.
I: What does it look like?
H: It is a triangle. And in it you have the word (Hebrew) ooenpetuim.
It is a mystic word; there is no meaning for it. In other words,
according to tradition and legend, that when there is a national
problem they would go to the high priest and propose to him the
question shall it be done like ----------or not and the letters
of this word ooenpetuim would light up either to say yes or no, that
the high priest wore. So in Yale you will find the seal of the
ooenpetuim. And in the complete American history is completely
involved with the ten lost tribes of Israel. And there were great
I: Of course there were.
H: And they were all ministers, of the pilgrim movement. Columbia, Harvard,
and Yale, the early schools were completely involved with the Bible.
And Hebrew to them was a sacred language; they studied Hebrew extensively.
They were great Hebrew scholars. They encouraged rabbis to come abroad
and lecture to them in colleges in Hebrew. This is very American history.
That is why all the names are Old Testament.
I: Of course, of course. Some of them, I hadn't realized, go back to the early
names either all Hebrew names --------a tremendous-------------.
Occasionally, after virtue, prudence, comfort, fortitude, ..
H: Otherwise, they carried the biblical Old Testament names.
I: It is an interesting thing for I think had it not been for the
pilgrims. I think the whole idea of the Promised Land would have
-------American History in--------.
H: The Thanksgiving that we have was taken from one of the Jewish holidays,
Yom Kippur, the harvest festival.
I: The whole idea of the promised land in the whole Jewish thing is so
strong in the Christian thing. I think the whole concept of the Promised
H: You will find that true later on when the aristocrat came to the colonies,
Virginia, because they pulled away from the English church. New England
was separated by the pilgrims.
I: The theme that was heard over and over again in American History when
Brigam Young and all those people, and the Mormons, they went right back
to the ancient Hebrew tradition. He had all those ideas about faith but
he had a -----to the Promised Land out there.
H: He went back to the idea that 6f the ten lost tribes of Israel.
Always to the ten lost tribes of Israel they went back. The founders of
the Mormon Church you will find that they are trying to institute the
idea of the lost tribes, just like Ethiopia.
I: Well, what was sometimes believed to be--------and other times the lost
H: Yes, that is why there is the lion of Judu.
I: Fascinating, fascinating. We have gotten kind of far away from Miami Beach.
to the lion of Juda. How does the Jewish community as a whole feel about
H: The Jewish community as a whole never have an opinion about anything.
I: So have we. You were speaking before about your desire to create a
hotel for something that will be a good atmosphere in Miami Beach,
one that would not be ---------
H: So you just asked my answer to the question. Depending on wether it
is the 25th or 26th; anything you want to use the 25th you must use
it all up before the 25th. And anything you want to use on the 26th
can't be prepared on the 25th; it must be prepared on the 26th.
I: No leftovers in other words?
H: That is right.
11 It is balanced, it really is.
H: It flows constantly; in other words, in different departments the house-
keeper was in this morning asking me about -----------but she had to ask.
We had movies tonight in the hotel. When cleaning for Passover,we have
to give the hotel a thorough cleaning. No -----is found in the entire
hotel. We have a man who strips and wax the carpeting in the terrace room
where we usually hold the movie. And the man can only work tonight
if she wants to get it through or not whether she can have the movie shown
in the second half. -------------
I; In the other room. Well, I can see you would always have to be on the
premises with these matters coming up.
What I asked you, my last question about what the Jewish community as you
aaw- t-fea2 -bout-Miami Beach. Riding along, there is a kind of intimacy,
kind of a feeling about Miami Beach as a place for visit certainly a
place with much-to-much money. And this is true of the gentiles too.
because it is corrupt and has too much money it has been so from the beginning.
And this is what happened in the beginning and came along. So I was wondering
how does this relate to the Jewish community if it does indeed relate?
H: Yes it does relate to the Jewishcommunity. In the last number of years,
as Mrs. Herman pointed out to you because of the social security program,
because of the problem of what we call the gold rage;. these flks, both
Jewish and non-Jewish find that Miami Beach is ideally suited for them
because of the fact that they have the weather and they can find accommodations
to satisfy each and everyone's pockets. The nice thing about Miami Beach as
far as economizing is that every person can find a spot for himself here
whether he wants to spend $5 or $1,000. So they find it is easier to live
I: Yes, indeed it is.
H: Every worker; we talk about corruption, it is true about all the spots.
A person, which reminds me what I sometimes see on television, they have
a program on safety of automobile driving. They have a man who is a good
husband, a good father, whose calm and gentle to his neighbors and soft-
spoken. Then they show him get behind the wheel of his car. That is the
conventional attitude. When people who are nice in every direction aid
they feel in order to have good time they must be bad and there is no limit
to exactly what they will do. This is the American spirit of ----------
It is the college youngster who comes here and spends the night ; he is a
nice boy; she is nice girl; but it is not the thing to do when you are
I: I often think when I look out, I think it is the Fountainblue that does
it to me more than anything else, all those wonderful ---------- in the
tropics. Sometimes you look at the Fountainblue and just think of Jeremiah
and some of those------------------------------------------------------
H: You are a little bit hard. The New Testament has that it is easier for
a camel to go through a fire than for a rich man to go to heaven.
In the Old Testament, you will find ------------and venture, that's
another name for the children of Israel ------------. This is the
pleasure of hating money. We are living in an affluent society.
I guess --------has its dangers in some areasT-riots, communistic
movement, etc. Sometimes an affluent t if not directed in a proper
direction has its dangers too, because they want to drink champagne
and eat feasant for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I: Well, I think to a certain extent Miami Beach has an international,
certainly a national image, everybody, correct me if you think I am
wrong, you cannot be poor but you can certainly be middle class
and not very rich in spite of this.
H: We do not ive in this kind of community in the last decade or two.
AAsuccessful man or woman is not a person whois educated we eaie -thm an egghead
it is an American expression. An egghead, who is the successful person,
is how much money they spend and how much money they have.
I: The problem of Miami Beach, seems to me, is that everybody can be rich or
look like a rich person or it might be more accurate to say look like
what they think a rich person looks like, excuse my grammar. So you can
come to Miami Beach and come to the Fountainblue; if you cannot afford
the Fountainblue in season, you can stay in the--------, or if you cannot
afford the--------you can rent one so you can present the whole show.
H: That is the American story; people carrying insurance policies in order
to insure their home. People live on credit; the tess money they have
they more objects they buyT- from their homes down to their television
sets. It is the American story; it is a dangerous situation sociologically,
that the American people are going through at the present time.
Mrs H: This is the attitude that many people take. Why not take advantage of
I: I didn't reason around the offices of the Fountainblue in terms of the
old prophets. I think it is because of the idealology, the basic phil-
osophy is very similar between this inscripture and the Old Testament.
But it is the wonderful things that they said about Babylon that meant
H: Because Babylon, I don't know whether you know becasue very few people
know, but ancient Babylon was a very affluent society.
I: Oh, yes. Take the whole side of Israel and----
H: The Babylon- community had many Jewish contradictions. The Jewish
community in Babylon were richer than the Jews of the--------. They
lived in a very affluent society and had all the advances of the extremely
I: They were very much honored.
H: Because they were so wealthy. Babylon was the center of the universe; the
commerce, the industry, the sciences, and the art Babylon was the first.
That is why we hear so much about Babylon because it was a very affluent
society; it is the same as the United States today. Everyone loved villas;
they lived in villas on the equators and everybody had hopes and everybody
I: Sounds like Miami Beach.
H: Yes, this is Babylon. Yes, yes. The only difference is that in Babylon
they had a tremendous part of the population who were slaves. They were
the ones bought on the public market that were bright from other countries,
war captives and so forth.
I: That was true of the whole country. Well, I am taking up too much of your
time. You have been most kind. Is there anything else you would lile
to say? Well, I must ask you again if you have any objections to anything
you have said on the tape.
H: Whatever I said in my life, I would not say I objected to it.
I: Ha! ha! Let me see if I got the spelling of your name right. M-a-r-e-r
middle initial I. and Herman with one "n" or two?
I: I want to ask one final question about specific word, your big season
of the year was this weekend of the Passover. Is this even bigger than
H: Oh, certainly. Yes, because this is Passover, is a particular holiday
just like Rosh Hashana and Kippur, which the majority of Jewish people
I: I believe you said when I talked to you last week because that
speaking Rosh Hashana and Yon Kippur come at a poor time.
H: In the hurricane time.
I: So you would have no customers at that time. Although other hotels
go lower at that time.
H: That is right.
I: Your season then goes from December 1 ..
H; December 1 to the day after Passover, depending upon the year. This year
it will be until May 3.
I: Because of the Passover.
I: Your biggest season will then be this week, a Passover on.. would your
next biggest season be ..
Mrs. H: February.
I: Do you have a lot of people who come between Christmas and New Years?
H: It depends. We have a Hannaka festival; it depends upon the
children. Let me clarify. If Hannaka comes out calendar-wise
the same time as Christmas, then we have as good a season at
Christmas as we would have had at Passover. And then, for example,
this year we are not going to have many children for Passover while
lastyear during Easter we had over a hundred children.
I: Yes, because they just joined the Easter------------
H: It would be Easter.
I: Okay. I think that is all I wanted to get.