Season 2 Episode 18: The Catskills—A Brief History

What did Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers and Wilt Chamberlain have in common? Why did Jews on vacation need so much entertainment? How did the Catskills become the epicenter of Jewish middle-class vacationing and why did it collapse almost as quickly as it began? Who's putting baby in the corner—and why? Hosts Dan Crane and Jessica Chaffin explore the history of the Catskills with documentarians Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg, scholar Eddy Portnoy, and photographer Marisa Scheinfeld. 


Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 9.41.00 AM.png

Caroline Laskow and Ian Rosenberg

Welcome to Kutsher’s @kutshersdoc

Caroline Laskow & Ian Rosenberg directed and produced Wilt Chamberlain: Borscht Belt Bellhopfor ESPN Films’ Emmy-winning 30 for 30 Shorts series (2013 Tribeca Film Festival premiere). The short documentary reached over a million views online in a series record time, played at more than 20 film festivals internationally, was broadcast on ESPN and is now available via VOD

Together they also produced and directed Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort (2012 New York Jewish Film Festival at Lincoln Center, Closing Night Selection; Best Documentary Audience Award, Miami Jewish Film Festival), which was released on DVD and VOD in 2015 by Menemsha Films after a theatrical run in New York, California and Florida.  

Eddy Portnoy

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 9.42.44 AM.png

Edward Portnoy (@eddyportnoy) is Senior Researcher and Director of Exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.  Eddy received his Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His dissertation was on cartoons of the Yiddish press. He also holds an M.A in Yiddish Studies from Columbia, having written on artists/writers Zuni Maud and Yosl Cutler. His articles on Jewish popular culture phenomena have appeared in The Drama Review, Polin, and The International Journal of Comic Art. In addition to speaking on Jewish popular culture throughout Europe and North America, he has consulted on museum exhibits at the Museum of the City of New York, Musée d'art et d'histoire du judaïsme in Paris, and the Joods Historisch Museum in Amsterdam.

His new book, Bad Rabbi, And Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press is now available here.

Marisa Scheinfeld

Marisa Scheinfeld (@marisaschein) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1980, and raised in the Catskills. She received a B.A. from the State University at Albany in 2002, and a MFA from San Diego State University in 2011. Her work is highly motivated by her interest in the ruin, or site and the histories embedded within them. Marisa’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is among the collections of The Center for Jewish History, The National Yiddish Book Center, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art & Life, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Dorot Jewish Division at the New York Public Library and The Edmund and Nancy K. Dubois Library at the Museum of Photographic Arts. On October 4th, 2016 Cornell University Press released her first book entitled The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland.

Her book is available here.



Dan Crane (@dancranehere) is a journalist, musician, Jew (lax, loves lox) and retired professional air-guitarist.

He writes about culture and travel for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, California SundaySlate, and numerous other publications. 

He’s the author of “To Air is Human” and stars in the documentary, Air Guitar Nation.





Jessica Chaffin (@jessicachaffin) is an American actress, comedian, and writer perhaps best known as Ronna of the comedy duo "Ronna & Beverly." Other credits include VeepSpyThe Heat, the animated show Big Mouth out on Netflix 9/29, and the upcoming season of Search Party.