JWA News Release:June 22, 2005
"Jewish Women, Comedy, and the Catskills"
is the special theme of the
Eleventh Annual History of the Catskills Conference
August 26–28, 2005 at Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello, NY
Did you love the films "Sweet Lorraine," "A Walk on the Moon," and "Dirty Dancing?" Do you remember how Helen Kutsher, Jennie Grossinger and other owners presided over the activities, menus, and general well-being of their guests in their summer "homes?" Do you remember how the magic of Catskills humor found its way beyond the Borscht Belt through the work of entertainers like Gertrude Berg? And do you remember all those Jewish mother jokes?
The parties in the staff quarters, the midnight suppers, canasta and mah-jongg by the pool, "Ruby the Knish Man" at the bungalow colonies … those experiences will come alive again at the Eleventh Annual History of the Catskills Conference, at historic Kutsher's Country Club in Monticello the weekend of August 26–28, 2005.
The special theme this year is "Jewish Women, Comedy, and the Catskills," cosponsored by the Catskills Institute and the Jewish Women's Archive. There will be comedy performances, speakers about the history of Jewish women's comedy, and an opening night event with a slide show of Catskills history accompanied by live music.
About the Presenters
- Lauren Antler will offer a comedy presentation, "What to Wear When You're Fighting the Patriarchy: Lessons from a Jewish Feminist's Daughter." Lauren Antler has been performing comedy for over a decade. She is a member of the critically acclaimed NYC sketch group, The Royal We, whose recent shows "Does This War Make Me Look Fat?" and "Be All That You Can Buy," were featured in Seattle, Chicago, and NYC comedy festivals. Lauren trained with Second City New York, and was an ensemble member of their 2001 Revue Show, "A Time for Heroes & Hoagies." Lauren's films with Collar's Up have been in a number of festivals, including Second City's Short Cuts Film Festival.
- Joyce Antler will speak on "My Yiddishe/Red Hot Mama: A Short History of Jewish Women in Comedy." Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University. She is the author and editor of many books on women's history, including The Journey Home: How Jewish Women Shaped Modern America; Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in American Popular Culture; and America and I: Short Stories of American Jewish Writers. Her new book, Mamatalks: A Cultural History of the Jewish Mother will be published in 2006. A Founding Board member of the Jewish Women's Archive, Antler also serves as Chair of the Jewish Women's Archive's Academic Advisory Council.
- Rachel Kranson will speak on "Staging the Ideal Jewish Community: Women Hotel Owners in the Catskills, 1950-1970." She is a doctoral student at New York University in the History and the Jewish Studies Departments, where she is studying various topics on the Jewish Catskills. She has a BA from Barnard and a Masters Degree in Women's Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary. From 2000-2002 she worked as the Assistant Editor at Lilith magazine, and she remains a contributing editor. She was a Jewish Women's Archive "Jewish Women Building Community" research fellow in 2004-2005.
- Melissa Martens will speak on "Catskills and Context: Putting Together a Museum Exhibition on Jewish-American Vacation Culture." Melissa Martens is the Curator of the Jewish Museum of Maryland where she oversees collections, exhibitions, and related interpretive publications. She has led several of the Museum's major interpretive projects, including: "Enterprising Emporiums: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore;" "Tchotchkes: Treasures of the Family Museum;" and "Cornerstones of Community: The Historic Synagogues of Maryland." She is currently curating the forthcoming exhibitions "Hello Gorgeous! Fashion, Beauty, and the Jewish-American Ideal," as well as "The Other Promised Land: Vacations, Identity, and the Jewish-American Dream," which will travel nationally.
- Samantha Goldstein will speak on "'For the Amusement of the Guests:' How Gertrude Berg Brought the Catskills to Radio and Television," based on her 2001 dissertation in Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of California, San Diego in 2001. She teaches creative writing and a Jewish humor course at UCSD called "The Yada Yada Factor: Jewish Humor in American Culture from the Catskills to 'Seinfeld.'"
- Yvonne David will speak on "Catskills Revisited: Creating a Book for Young Readers," concerning her young adult book, Out of the Apple Orchard, to be published in August. It is the first children's book centered on the Jewish Catskills experience - the first in a series of four that follows the Bieman family of Mountaindale. David is a magazine and newspaper writer who lives in Orlando, Florida.
- Joe Dorinson will speak on "From Alan King to Billy Crystal: The Changing Face of Catskills Comedy." Joe Dorinson, a historian at Long Island University, has co-edited Paul Robeson: Essays on his Life and Legacy and Jackie Robinson: Race, Sports and the American Dream. He is also a scholar of comedy and popular culture. Dorinson coordinated a conference marking the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, and another on Paul Robeson.
About the Conference
Now in its eleventh year, the conference is one of the major activities of the Catskills Institute, a group that works to preserve the many important elements of Catskills culture. The Catskills Institute publishes the newsletter In the Mountains, runs a website (catskills.brown.edu), coordinates research activities, and maintains the world's largest archive of material on Jewish life in the Catskills.
About the Jewish Women's Archive
The Jewish Women's Archive (JWA) is a national, nonprofit organization with a mission to uncover, chronicle and transmit the rich legacy of Jewish women and their contributions to our society and world. JWA recently presented a gala evening of Jewish women's comedy, "So Laugh a Little," at the Copacabana in New York, featuring comedians Lauren Antler, Judy Gold, Jackie Hoffman, Catie Lazarus, Wendy Liebman, and Rain Pryor. Founded in Boston in 1995, JWA is an innovator in the use of the virtual world for academic, cultural, archival and educational purposes. For more on Jewish women and comedy, visit jwa.org.
About the Catskills Institute
The Catskills Institute organizers, both scholars and non-scholars, have been propelled by the near-total demise of this amazing resort area that once hosted hundreds of thousands of guests a year. Chartered as an educational organization by the New York State Regents, and a 501(c)(3) organization, the Catskills Institute works to preserve the legacy of hotels and bungalow colonies where people formed communities and established intricate relationships in a neighborhood and family milieu. For the better part of the 20th century, Jews in the Catskills incorporated music, humor, vaudevillian entertainment, cuisine, language, and Jewish identity, forming a resort culture unmatched by any other ethnic group.
With their conference and other activities, Catskills Institute organizers have spearheaded a renaissance of interest in this magical world. In the last seven years alone, Phil Brown's Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area and In the Catskills: A Century Of The Jewish Experience In "The Mountains," Irwin Richman's Catskill Hotels, Borscht Belt Bungalows: Memories of Catskill Summers, Sullivan County Borscht Belt, and Sullivan County in Vintage Postcards, and Eileen Pollack's Paradise, New York have been published, and Sidney Offit's 1959 novel He Had it Made has been republished. College courses are being offered, academic conference papers given, and theses and dissertations are being written on what some term the new field of "Catskill Studies." Above all, people are remembering and learning from the experiences of a remarkable place and time.
For more information contact:
Phil Brown, 4 Goodman Road Cambridge, MA 02139
617-354-6138 cell 617-823-5119
[From June 25-July 23 call 508-349-1987]
Cruise the mountain roads of the Catskills Institute website: catskills.brown.edu