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Jewish Journal

Season’s End in the Catskills

Seeing Cuba's Jews was no surprise, but seeing such a vibrant community was

by Phil Brown

September 30, 1999 | 8:00 pm

I'm just back from rummaging at the liquidation sale in the Concord Hotel, a months-long process already. Silverware has dropped from $2 each, to four for a dollar; gleaming silverware pails from $20 to $5. Hasidim load vans to furnish their bungalows with astonishingly ugly motel-looking chairs and dressers. Nostalgic guests and waiters bargain for a slice of memory of the golden years of the Catskills, such as numbers from dining room tables. And me, I buy a silver setting for eight to set a table in the archives of the Catskills Institute, which preserves this legacy.

Last year at this time, I slept at my parents' old Brown's Hotel Royal in White Lake, that they owned from 1946-52. It's astonishing that the hotel still stands, recycled as the beautifully decorated Bradstan Hotel. Most very small hotels -- the Royal would be stuffed at 60 guests -- are long ago collapsed, burned, reclaimed by the land. I compiled a list of 953 hotels that graced the Jewish summer paradise of Sullivan and Ulster counties over the last century, and more than 500 still stood in the late 1960s, along with about the same number of bungalow colonies. Less than two handfuls of hotels remain, none of them as small as the Royal, and they close at an alarming rate -- the Concord, Pines and Aladdin, all in the last year. But bungalow colonies still abound, largely populated by ultra Orthodox Jews.

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