For the past several years photographer Marisa Scheinfeld has been photographing the end of the Borscht Belt in the Catskills, a region in upstate New York once known as a vacation destination away from the chaos of New York City.
In the early decades of its heyday, the Catskills were a potent and affordable draw for Jews seeking to escape the suffocating heat, grating work conditions and antisemitism they endured in the city. Nicknamed, the Borscht Belt and the Jewish Alps, over time it outlived it’s usefulness as Jews assimilated.
“It all seems to be ending. You think kids want to come with their parents and take foxtrot lessons? Trips to Europe, that’s what the kids want. Twenty-two countries in three days. It feels like it’s all slipping away,” says fictional Catskills resort owner Max Kellerman in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. The movie, set during the summer of 1963, captured the region at the start of its gradual decline. Air conditioning and the rise of suburbia made summers at home easier to stomach. The thriving airline industry opened up exciting new vacation destinations. American Jews no longer needed a place all their own. And as the big hotel chains grew, they took business away from small hotels, bungalow colonies and local economies.