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This is NOT The Borscht Belt: Resorts of the Early Jewish Catskills

Hosted By: The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC)

The histories and legends of the Catskill Mountains, located just north of New York City, are deeply ingrained into American history. The Catskills were the first “Vacationland” in America. Made popular by the writer Washington Irving, the Catskill Mountains come to mind whenever we hear of “Rip Van Winkle” or “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” The first American art movement was the Hudson River School, which focused on the physical and, very importantly, the spiritual beauties of the Catskill Mountains. The spiritual reverence for these Mountains led to the creation of Manhattan’s Central Park, designed in homage by the exceptional British architect, Calvert Vaux –assisted by the well-known newspaper reporter, whose journalistic writings are still in print, Frederick Law Olmsted.

In addition to numerous other resorts, 150 years ago, the lush forests and lakes of the Catskill Mountains, also became home to a small handful of celebrated Jewish resort communities. These enclaves provided a reprieve from city life, with summer destinations in a specifically Jewish environment for members of the cultural and social elite of American Jewry. We’ll explore the Jewish histories of important, but largely forgotten summer communities in towns such as Fleischmanns, Tannersville, Hunter, Sharon Springs, and even New York’s famous resort for politicos, Saratoga Springs. In these affluent communities, we’ll learn of world-transforming musicians and composers, prominent Jewish businessmen, a well-loved opera singer, a New York State Governor, history-making rabbis, stars of the Yiddish Theatre, and the only woman in America who was a close second in popularity to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Today, the histories of these historically important communities are largely forgotten – having been overshadowed by more recent memories of the later resorts of Sullivan County. These Catskill Mountain communities, in which anti-Semitism was consciously challenged, set the groundwork for the appearance of those much later resorts in the Shawangunk Mountains that included Grossinger’s, Kutsher’s, the Nevele, and so many that lovingly reside in people’s memories… Those resorts (and many others) will be included in the second part of this two-part series. PART TWO IS November 7.

Our presenter for this reprise presentation is Justin Ferate, who was honored by New York State Governor George Pataki and the New York State Tourism Council as New York’s “Most Engaging Tour Guide.” Mr. Ferate also wrote the official New York City Professional Tour Guide Licensing Examination for the City of New York. Time Out New York selected Mr. Ferate as “One of New York’s 50 Essential Secrets!”


The event listed here is hosted by a third party. My Jewish Learning/70 Faces Media is not responsible for its content or for errors in the listing.


The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC)

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy (LESJC) is an educational non-profit, created in 1998, to preserve and support the Lower East Side’s community of living synagogues and other historic structures, and to raise public awareness of the neighborhoods distinct cultural identity. As the birthplace of American Jewish civilization, and the most iconic immigrant neighborhood in America, we share this history by taking people on walking tours which enter sacred sites, where you learn how past generations came here, lived and worshiped. Learn more about LESJC here.
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