Borscht Belt! Big Screen!


Want to relive the first flutters of summer love while brushing up your Jewish comedy chops and finding out what happens to a chaise-lounge after a couple decades of exposure to the elements? Starting this Sunday, May 10, the National Yiddish Book Center gives you an excuse to take a trip to beautiful western Massachusetts: the Borscht Belt Film Festival, i.e. a series of films that celebrate love, laughter, and hospitality in the Jewish Catskills.

The classic films in the festival were rescued from dumpsters by the YBC’s founder Aaron Lansky — wait, never mind, that’s another story. But they are a mixture of nostalgic favorites, like Dirty Dancing, alongside elegies for a bygone era of American Jewish vacationing like the documentary Welcome to Kutsher’s. Presented in conjunction with Echoes from the Borscht Belt, Marisa Scheinfeld’s photographs of abandoned Catskills hotels, the festival also features A Walk on the Moon and the more recent When Comedy Went to School.

By the end of the weekend, you should feel like that trip to Machu Picchu was pretty lame compared to your grandma’s annual stay at Grossinger’s. You’ll also be thoroughly fluent in Catskills-eze. You can start practicing now. Repeat after Sid Caesar: “If you have a good now, you’re gonna have a good was and a good gonna be.”

Pull Up a Chair and Watch a Borscht Belt Hit


(Photo by Marisa Scheinfeld, courtesy of the National Yiddish Book Center.)

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