We are on the verge of the hottest summer ever – but that’s what most of us in Miami think every year.
Summer isn’t much of a season here, just more of our hot weather getting hotter. The only thing that actually does change is the morning and afternoon commute with the absence of school traffic.
A fun-filled pool party will be sure to cool off you and the kids from that hot sun at the Alper JCC this Sunday, June 7. Later that same day, a documentary film will be screened in the Russell Theater about Kutsher’s, the last Catskills resort. The JCC pool and surrounding area is sure to be a treat for kids, families and kids at heart. From 12-3:30 p.m., enjoy an afternoon of pool games, a huge waterslide, fun activities, food truck fare, poolside fitness, music and fun for the whole family. Among floating inner tubes and noodles will be a spinning log roll where guests may walk, spin, jump and fall into the pool. Snag special camp promotions at this event as well. Admission is free and guests are welcome.
At 4 p.m. inside the Russell Theater, will be a showing of the documentary Welcome to Kutsher’s. Situated in the southeastern part of New York, Kutsher’s Country Club was the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskill Mountains, one of the legendary Borscht Belt hotels during its heyday, Kutsher’s was family-owned and operated for over 100 years. This award-winning film explores the full Dirty Dancing-era Catskills experience through a close look at Kutsher’s rise and fall. Capture one last glimpse of a lost world as it disappears before our eyes, as just last year it was sold and demolished.
Many of our own JCC members have strong ties to the Catskills and we spoke with two of them to hear about how they lived it up there during the glory days. Dr. Mel Greenstein stopped by to discuss his experience working as a performer there from 1944-60. Towering a little over six feet tall, we heard him strutting over toward my office with witty banter. Clutched in his hand was a framed photograph of himself from his days as a singer at the New Edgewood Hotel, one of the 48 hotels at which “Mel Lester” (Greenstein’s stage name) performed beginning at just 17 years old. Mel reminisced of working alongside some great actors and comedians of the time, including Emmy winner Fyvush Finkel, Freddy Roman, Red Buttons and more. A true entrepreneur, Mel didn’t need an agent, as he knew he could bring home more money doing his own negotiations.
“That’s what paid for my education,” said Greenstein. “Kutsher’s was more known for sports than entertainment; in the 1950s, they started sports teams at each of the hotels and they’d play each other. In those days, when he wasn’t playing ball Wilt Chamberlain was a bellhop at Kutsher’s.”
With about 1,000 Hotels and bungalow colonies in the Catskills, Cheryl Rosen had a different experience at the Tamarack Lodge. It was an all-inclusive resort in Greenfield Park, with the majority of families returning every summer from the Fourth of July weekend through Labor Day, as with all of the resorts in what was known as “the Borscht Belt.”
“We were one big family with lots of gossip, and drama,” said Rosen. “Most of the staff lived on the grounds and mingled with the guests, even though it was against the rules. I was a guest of the hotel with my family from age 9-21, until I got married in 1980. One of my boyfriends was the grandson of the owner of the hotel and worked as a bellhop, a busboy and waiter. Together we broke every rule possible and provided lots of gossip and entertainment to all. He is now my husband and we are happily married 35 years. Our best memories are those years in the Catskills. The movie Dirty Dancing is more accurate than most people think.”
Now, there is an eternal “no vacancy” as the chain of former hotels along the Borscht Belt remain in ruins as nothing more than a fabulous history lesson.
We hope to see you this Sunday for our pool party or film screening to get a taste of the great events to come this year. Happy summer!