Catskill Culture: A Story Told Through Resorts

Northeastern University

Phil Brown is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute and is on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Studies Program. For 13 years, Brown ran an annual History of the Catskills Conference, and he is founder and President of the Catskills Institute: an organization that holds the world’s largest archive of Catskills items and records Catskills history through conferences, public speaking, and scholarly research. He has written: Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area; In the Catskills: A Century of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains” (editor), and Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust, and the Literary Imagination (co-editor with Holli Levitsky).

 

Overview

In this unique new class, Professor Phil Brown will talk about the Jewish experience in the Catskills: from the first Jewish boarding house just before the turn of the 20th century, through the decline and current transformation. You’ll see the hotels and bungalow colonies and learn about the people who stayed and worked there, as well as the food and entertainment that sustained them. Professor Brown’s many years of living and working in the Catskills provides a rich trove of material on this magical world that continues to resonate in the popular imagination. He will also discuss the inaccuracy of certain portrayals of the Catskills in popular culture, such as in the film Dirty Dancing and TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, while talking about the accuracy and deep sensitivity of films such as Sweet Lorraine and A Walk on the Moon.

 

Recommended Reading:

Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area, by Phil Brown

In the Catskills: A Century of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains” – Phil Brown, ed.

Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust, and the Literary Imagination — Holli Levitsky and Phil Brown, eds.

Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memoirs of Catskills Summers, by Irwin Richman

Paradise, New York, by Eileen Pollack

He Had It Made, by Sidney Offit

 

Reviews

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Suzanne Dreyfus

Wonderful memories of the Catskills

Thanks, Phil, for bringing back to me memories of all the summers I spent in the Catskills with my parents, starting with the Sackett Lake Lodge, then going to Waxman’s Overlook in Loch Sheldrake. The next 3 years, we stayed at Finkelstein’s Bungalow Colony on Hasbrouck Road in Loch Sheldrake. Then, we stayed at Frieda’s Bungalow Colony, owned by Frieda and Max Vogel, right across the street from their hotel in Loch Sheldrake. We stayed there for 3 years, also, where I was able to slip through a hole in the fence separating Frieda’s from the beautiful Evans Hotel, where I played horseshoes by their pool and listened to the band playing. I still remember the sign in front of the Evans that mentioned that Jimmy Holmes, one of the original Ink Spots was appearing there. We then went to Woodbourne, where we stayed in Damesek’s Woodland Bungalow Colony. The following year, we went back to Loch Sheldrake and stayed at Ritzer’s Bungalow Colony, right across from the lake and the excellent Beachcomber Ice Cream shop, where I could get a chocolate malted, cheeseburger and fries for only $1.99. The following year, we went back to Woodbourne, staying at Carrie Komito’s small apartments, that were separate from her Aladdin Hotel. After that, we stayed everywhere from Brickman’s Hotel to Gilbert’s Hotel. We then stayed at Rose and Abe Gibber’s Hotel in Kiamesha Lake (yes, I saw the photo of their handball court in your lecture), and, finally, we spent many many years and had such good times at the Heiden Hotel (renamed “The Lorraine” for that wonderful movie filmed there starring Maureen Stapleton). So, this was undoubtedly a fantastic way for me to spend 42 minutes of my time tonight. Thank you.

3 months ago
Jacqueline Magiera

Nice overview. I would have loved to learn why the Jews were attracted to the Catskills and more of the history leading up to the 50s and 60s.

2 months ago
Judith Cohen

Catskill Culture: A Story Told Through Resorts

I just joined One Day University today and this video was my first choice. I loved It! My mother-in-law grew up in Ellenville and Fallsburg, my first husband was a waiter in several resorts in the 60’s, and my parents went to Kutshers every summer for a week as their “big vacation.” Because of all of the stories I heard, I feel very nostalgic as well. I have to also say I love your subtle humor and laughed out loud several times! Thank you so much, Dr Brown. It was a pleasure and I am looking forward to more new learning!

2 months ago
Judith Cohen

Catskill Culture: A Story Told Through Resorts

I just joined One Day University today and this video was my first choice. I loved It! My mother-in-law grew up in Ellenville and Fallsburg, my first husband was a waiter in several resorts in the 60’s, and my parents went to Kutshers every summer for a week as their “big vacation.” Because of all of the stories I heard, I feel very nostalgic as well. I have to also say I enjoyed your subtle humor and laughed out loud several times! Thank you so much, Dr Brown. It was a pleasure and I am looking forward to more new learning!

2 months ago
Judith Cohen

Catskill Culture: A Story Told Through Resorts

I just joined One Day University today and this video was my first choice. I loved It! My mother-in-law grew up in Ellenville and Fallsburg, my first husband was a waiter in several resorts in the 60’s, and my parents went to Kutshers every summer for a week as their “big vacation.” Because of all of the stories I heard, I feel very nostalgic as well. I have to also say I enjoyed your subtle humor and laughed out loud several times! Thank you so much, Dr Brown.

2 months ago
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