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The Borscht Belt, by Marisa Scheinfeld 
Saturday, December 10 | 7:00pm
Mandel JCC Boynton Beach 
Pricing: $16 Reader Level Literary Society
$20 JCC Member 
$24 Guest 
Register for Borscht Belt>>

About the Book: 

Today the Borscht Belt is recalled through the nostalgic lens of summer swims, Saturday night dances, and comedy performances. But its current state, like that of many other formerly glorious regions, is nothing like its earlier status. Forgotten about and exhausted, much of its structural environment has been left to decay. The Borscht Belt, which features essays by Stefan Kanfer and Jenna Weissman Joselit, presents Marisa Scheinfeld's photographs of abandoned sites where resorts, hotels, and bungalow colonies once boomed in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York.

The book assembles images Scheinfeld has shot inside and outside locations that once buzzed with life as year-round havens for generations of people. Some of the structures have been lying abandoned for periods ranging from four to twenty years, depending on the specific hotel or bungalow colony and the conditions under which it closed. Other sites have since been demolished or repurposed, making this book an even more significant documentation of a pivotal era in American Jewish history.

The Borscht Belt presents a contemporary view of more than forty hotel and bungalow sites. From entire expanses of abandoned properties to small lots containing drained swimming pools, the remains of the Borscht Belt era now lie forgotten, overgrown, and vacant. In the absence of human activity, nature has reclaimed the sites, having encroached upon or completely overtaken them. Many of the interiors have been vandalized or marked by paintball players and graffiti artists. Each ruin lies radically altered by the elements and effects of time. Scheinfeld’s images record all of these developments.

About the Author: 

Jenna Weissman Joselit is Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at The George Washington University, where she also directs two graduate programs in Jewish cultural arts. She is the author of The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880–1950 and A Perfect Fit: Clothes, Character, and the Promise of America.

Reviews of the Book:  

"One winter I went with other teenagers to a convention at Grossinger's and remember my excitement at discovering the indoor swimming pool and the deep heat of their sauna. I recall that the whole place seemed to offer a wonderland of new experiences. I went to the convention again the next year, but I never went back after I left New York. There is a stark difference between my memory and the shell of a resort that exists today. But the past can be given form and detail by photography, and that is what Marisa Scheinfeld’s photographs do. Visualizing the past this way can actually take the form of memory. Old and new pictures help us to experience any change that has happened, and I have found change to be the truest measure of time."―Mark Klett, photographer


"In photographing the ruins of the great Jewish resort area, Marisa Scheinfeld taps our memories of the great Golden Age of the Catskills and fills our hearts with recollections. In their whirlwinds of color, these photos sing the history of the hotels and bungalow colonies, putting us at ease by the pool, at sport on the handball courts, and always at the table in the dining room. It's a joy to step into these vivid images and relive such an important historical phenomenon."―Phil Brown, Founder and President of the Catskills Institute


"Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld has documented the end of the great resorts in The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland, which features page after page of photos of waterless, cracking pools, dirt- caked floors, weathered and withered wooden cottages, gashed ceilings and gushing insulation, graffiti-bedecked walls, rows of bereft beach emptiness where there had once been fullness. Scheinfeld’s photos remind one of the old Catskills’ theme of nature despoiled, a contemporary counterpart to the desolate final painting in Cole’s The Course of Empire."―Neal Gabler, Jewish Review of Books (Summer 2016)


"I will never forget my childhood in Brooklyn and my days visiting the Catskill Mountains. I worked one summer at Grossinger's as a busboy and it was a memorable experience in my life. It is sad to see these pictures of what once was and what will never be again. They are brilliant photographs and the memories will be indelible in my mind. This is sadly joyful."―Larry King


"I was there in the glory days of the Catskills and the audiences were tough and demanding. They really sharpened your act. It was do or die. No Borscht Belt, no Mel Brooks."―Mel Brooks

The Borscht Belt, by Marisa Scheinfeld 
Saturday, December 10 | 7:00pm
Mandel JCC Boynton Beach 
$16 Reader Level Literary Society
$20 JCC Member 
$24 Guest 

Register for Borscht Belt>>

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