29 June 2007

Back to the Mountains: The 13th Catskills Conference

Last summer, I returned to the Catskills - after more than three decades - for the 12th Catskills Institute Conference.

Our family had spent every summer at my grandparents' (Sid and Bertha Fink) bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake, quite close to where Catskill Institute founder Phil Brown's family had their property.

It was also the first time I had stayed at a real Borscht Belt hotel. Phil, a Brown University sociology professor, presented at the 2006 International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in New York and was very well received by a roomful of appropriately nostalgic individuals.

This year's event runs August 24-26 at Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello.
Speakers will include Jim Landis and Barbara Autrey, “Alfred Landis – Postcard Artist Extraordinaire;” Andrew Jacobs and Charles Swietarski, “Four Seasons Lodge: A Bungalow Colony of Holocaust Survivors; ”Joe Dorinson and Henry Foner, "Sam Levenson – From Classroom to Stand-Up.” Others will be announced.

The documentary pre-release of “Four Seasons Lodge” is based on the property whose residents were Holocaust survivors, by producer/director of photography Albert Maysles, under direction of New York Times reporter Andrew Jacobs.

The new bus tour this year will focus on Ellenville and will be led by author/historian Irwin Richman, whose talents were recognized on last year's tour of another area.

There will be an opening night event with a slide show of Catskills history, accompanied by live music.

The Catskills Institute publishes the newsletter “In the Mountains,” runs a website, coordinates research activities, and maintains the largest Jewish Catskills archive in the world. Phil is always looking for new items, so if you've got a neat T-shirt from your day camp years, postcards, photographs or other items, do contact him.

The conference fee is $60; the bus tour is $25 additional. Registration forms are here. For hotel reservations, contact Kutsher's.

While there is no requirement to stay at the hotel, the experience is well worth it. Our table of very interesting people from New York, Hawaii and elsewhere produced non-stop fun. One couple had met at the hotel and returned every year. Our family had spent summers at the bungalow colony, so we never stayed at the hotels, and it was a brand-new experience for me.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend this year due to travel plans, but I encourage other readers to return to the mountains.

Cruise the Mountain roads of the Catskills Institute website, or email Phil, catskills@brown.edu

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