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In Cabo, 'Mi Casa Es Su Casa,' Especially at Shul
From the balcony of our suite at the Riu Palace Resort, we could look out across the bay to El Arco -- the arch-shaped rocky symbol of this southern tip of the Baja California Sur, where the blue Pacific meets the emerald-green waters of the Sea of Cortez.
But it's the last thing I'd ever associate with a synagogue called Casa Shalom.
That's until I heard about David Greenberg, who runs a New York-style delicatessen called Señor Greenberg's in downtown Cabo's upscale Puerto Paraiso shopping mall in this Mexican playground.
Greenberg -- a vital force behind the creation of Casa Shalom -- is a partner in two Señor Greenberg's, including another at the Wal-Mart shopping center.
The Jewish entrepreneur from Los Angeles first came to Cabo to clear his mind and consider going to law school, but once he stayed a while, everything changed.
"I had heard great things about Cabo before coming," he said, "and decided to indefinitely postpone law school once I began working here."
Greenberg eventually married a girl from Mazatlan who converted to Judaism, and the couple now has two sons, a 3-year-old and an 8-month-old.
Before opening his first deli, which is more a combination deli and upscale Mexican diner, Greenberg worked in a variety of businesses and served as United States consular agent for Baja California South.
He is very proud of the downtown Casa Shalom, whose membership numbers about 100 people from Mexico, Argentina, Israel, France, the United States and Canada.
"Casa Shalom is open to all," he said. "The services and rabbi are Orthodox, but we have a section for mixed seating. Most of the community is not Orthodox, but we want a place where all will feel comfortable."
Casa Shalom recently hired Rabbi Benny Hershcovich, a native of Montreal.
Hershcovich and his wife, Sonia, are excited about enhancing programs for the Jewish community here and invites Jewish tourists to visit.
Religious services are held every Friday night, usually at 7:30 p.m., with anywhere from 30 to 50 people attending. Saturday-morning services, at 9 a.m., usually draw a minyan.
Special 'K' Available
According to Greenberg, all events at Casa Shalom are kosher, and it is also possible to get kosher food at the local Costco.
Getting in touch with Cabo's "Jewish connection" is easily done from either the Riu Palace or Riu Sante Fe Resort, about three miles from downtown Cabo.
These two sister resorts share a beach on pretty Cabo San Lucas Bay, part of a 20-mile coastal strip between the town of San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
The strip is lined with hotels, condos, villas and golf courses that reflect tourism growth, and the many North Americans who come for year-round sunny weather and the easy-going lifestyle.
On the way, we stopped to take pictures of a community of barking seals resting on some rocks and watched divers jump off steep cliffs into the water. Then we did "the amazing" -- sailing right through El Arco from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific.
Mornings at the Palace are also special in the resort's El Medano Restaurant, where hosts welcome you with a warm "Hola!" A lavish buffet is served, either indoors or on the patio, which reminded us of the very generous buffets at Israeli hotels.
The breakfast is part of Riu's all-inclusive policy, which covers all meals from breakfast to dinner, 24-hour snacks and beverages, and room service.
The variety of dining options gets better as the day grows longer with Krystal, an elegant, new-wave fusion restaurant; Misaki, a Japanese restaurant; San Jose for traditional Mexican dishes; Mar de Cortes Steak House; the San Jose Italian Restaurant for luncheon buffets; and an all-day buffet near the hotel's Infinity pools, which include swim-up bars.
The all-inclusive policy also covers evening entertainment with Mexican numbers, Broadway-style musicals and a nightly disco, as well as daytime programs like Spanish lessons, an introductory scuba lesson in the pool, and non-motorized water sports.
With its flowered gardens and sculptured pool edging up to the beach, the Riu Palace has nice touches like a courtyard with the unmistakable look and feel of Morocco.
Our first outing was a day trip to San Jose del Cabo, a quiet town with classic colonial architecture up the coastal highway about 20 miles away. Near the town square and the big white church are small art galleries, cafes behind colorful facades and little shops.
The Art District Association hosts a guided art walk with free coffee, from 9 a.m. to noon, running from November to May, as well as a Thursday-night art walk during the same months that takes place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Cabo San Lucas, which is a lot busier than San Jose del Cabo, is about three miles from the resort and home to a marina, where we took a whale-watching trip out beyond El Arco.
For reservations and more information about Riu, see: www.riu.com.
To learn more about the Jewish community, David Greenberg asks potential visitors to e-mail him at: email@example.com.