18 August 2006

At the ICJG: Summertime Memories

Phil Brown is professor of sociology and environmental studies, but his love is the Catskills.

He’s the founder of the Catskills Institute, http://catskills.brown.edu, (Brown University, Providence, RI) archiving everything about the region known as the Borscht Belt where millions of New York’s Jews spent their summers.

His parents had a hotel, Brown’s Royal, at one end of White Lake, while my grandparents (Sidney and Bertha Fink) owned Fink’s Kauneonga Park, a large bungalow colony down the road a bit in Kauneonga Lake.

The audience was visibly moved by Brown's nostalgic presentation of slides of then and now, ruins and rebuilding -- emotional memories that brought tears to many, including me.

Brown collects everything about the personalities, the large and small hotels and colonies across the area, and asks for material from everyone he meets.

The Institute also holds an annual conference in the Catskills – where else? It takes place next weekend, August 25-27, at Kutsher’s in Monticello. Those attending Brown’s session made a run for the event flyers, and quite a few said they would be attending. More information is on his website.

Programs include "From Hester Street to Route 17: Feature filmmakers document the Catskills," with Joan Micklin Silver and Raphael Silver; "Simon Sez and a half-hour of hilarious laughter," Lou Goldstein; "Borscht Belt Bungalows, Chapter XVI: Leaving the Catskills," with author Irwin Richman, and many others. A bus tour, an annual feature, takes participants throughout the area, this year focus on the living archeology of the resorts.

If you have fond memories of the Catskills and enjoy history, culture, music, literary, and cultural presentations of the Jewish experience, do consider attending the event. If you can't attend, check out the remarkable material Brown has amassed on the Institute Web site.

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