I grew up in a Protestant Midwestern town. Anything Jewish was just as alien to me as Mars, but then I moved to New York City. I discovered a whole subculture of Americana during my seven years there. I spent Passover with a co-worker’s family in Long Island, I learned the various Yiddish words that were sprinkled throughout conversation, and I constantly heard reference to “Grossingers” in the “Catskills.”
The Catskills was the penultimate summer vacation spot for American Jews, from the end of the 19th century until it’s dying days in the 1980’s. I heard about it during it’s last gasp, when my boss would mention time spent there, and everyone awed at Patrick Swayze as an on-screen dancing instructor at a Catskills hot spot in “Dirty Dancing.”
In the Catskills is an interesting and charming work – part history, part memoir, and part fiction. Phil Brown presents a history of the summer destination, what it was like and what it meant to American Jews. Also included are excerpts from such famous Jewish writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer and Herman Wouk, about the Catskills.
Anyone who has a connection will greatly enjoy the memories inspired by this book. Even those who’ve never been there (like me!), will appreciate learning about this unique part of American history.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2004
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