Borscht Belt

A postcard from the Concord Hotel, one of the prominent Borscht Belt resorts, from the 1930s or 1940s./Boston Public Library/flickr-CC
A postcard from the Concord Hotel, one of the prominent Borscht Belt resorts, from the 1930s or 1940s./Boston Public Library/flickr-CC

An informal term for the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York that primarily catered to Ashkenazic Jewish families in the mid-20th century. These resorts, now mostly closed or under new management, were a popular vacation spot for New York City Jews between the 1920s and 1970s. The name, a play on the Bible Belt, came from borscht, a beet soup popular with Eastern European Jewish immigrants. This collection of bungalow colonies and hotels developed in part to accommodate Jewish families who were sometimes denied admission to other resorts because of anti-Semitism. Many Jewish comedians and performers got their start in the Borscht Belt. The 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing” immortalized Borscht Belt culture, which included lavish meals, afternoon dance lessons and evening entertainment.

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