In the first half of the 20th century, Jews were unwelcome at many resorts in the United States.
So beginning in the 1930s, middle class Jewish New Yorkers found a respite in rural Southeastern New York.
The so-called “Borscht Belt” — also known as the Jewish Alps and Solomon Country — was transformed by the Jewish community into a resort haven of their own.
Skiing, skating, swimming, and boating were all offered by the ritzy resorts. Little-known comedians including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Joan Rivers all got their start doing stand-up comedy here. The community even inspired the film “Dirty Dancing.”
In short, the Borscht Belt was booming.
But that all changed in the 1960s. Cheap air travel suddenly allowed a new generation to visit more exotic and warmer destinations. Grossinger’s Resort, which once boasted 150,000 visitors annually and was known as the “Waldorf in the Catskills,” abandoned its operations in 1986.
New York-based photographer Marisa Scheinfeld grew up in this community, vacationing in the Borscht Belt with her family every summer. She set out to capture the crumbling glamour of the once well-known destinations in her new exhibit “The Ruins of the Borscht Belt.”
“While the project originated with my interest in the area’s regional history and engages personal notions of memory, it also reveals the growth, flowering and exhaustion of things, and then their subsequent regeneration,” Scheinfeld said in her artist statement. “The Borscht Belt was a haven for an entire cultural and social movement of people; its influences spread to mainstream American culture, entertainment and media.”
The Borscht Belt was once a thriving Jewish resort community. It was even fondly referred to as 'the Jewish Alps.'
Many middle class Jewish New York families would take their children here for vacations in the New York Catskills.
The resort community was the inspiration for movies like 'Dirty Dancing' and hosted comedians like Woody Allen and Joan Rivers. Through the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, it was thriving.
But by the 1970s, with the rise of affordable air travel, a trip to the Borscht Belt was no longer fashionable.
Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld decided to document the crumbling hotels she frequented as a child. Here, pool chairs lay abandoned at Grossinger's Catskill Resort and Hotel.
This outdoor pool at the Pines Hotel was once packed with vacationers -- now there are mounds of dirt and trash everywhere.
This was once the ice skating rink at the Pines Hotel. Now it's just another crumbling infrastructure in South Fallsburg.
Flamingo-coloured chairs and overturned tables have long been abandoned in the dining room of the once grand Pines Hotel.
And the outdated, dusty furniture in this ski chalet in the Nevele Grande Hotel patiently waits for someone -- anyone -- to sit down.
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