Welcome to Kutsher's: The Last Catskills Resort
- 1h 12min
Kutsher's Country Club is the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills. One of the legendary Borscht Belt hotels during its heyday, Kutsher's has been family-owned and operated for over... Read allKutsher's Country Club is the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills. One of the legendary Borscht Belt hotels during its heyday, Kutsher's has been family-owned and operated for over 100 years. Exploring the full Dirty Dancing-era Catskills experience-- and how it changed... Read allKutsher's Country Club is the last surviving Jewish resort in the Catskills. One of the legendary Borscht Belt hotels during its heyday, Kutsher's has been family-owned and operated for over 100 years. Exploring the full Dirty Dancing-era Catskills experience-- and how it changed American pop culture in the comedy, sports and vacation industries-- this documentary cap... Read all
In the late 80s as a teen, I had the opportunity to work a couple summers waiting tables at a neighboring hotel called The Concord, which was far larger than Kutchers. During this period, I learned about this history of these all-inclusive kosher resorts (my family is not Jewish). Let me tell you, for many employees, waiting tables was pure hell, 16-18 hour days and sleeping in filthy hotel owned cabins either on Site or off site (I stayed in both). But that's another story. We were paid a flat rate of something ridiculous like $2.10/hour based on an 8 hour day - VERY sketchy - and the best waiters (not me) earned up to $800 a week in cash tips back then. But this was only during the peak season when it was jam-packed with NYC and Long Island families escaping summer city life. Off season was almost empty.
I can't speak to the wait staff at Kutchers (my guess is their experience was similar to mine), and it definitely did NOT feel like family among the staff, who were primarily undocumented and had few job opportunities. Waiting tables was grueling and generated unhealthy forms of release among the staff. I got the job based on the recommendation of my (Jewish) high school guidance counselor since I wanted hotel experience to go study hotel Mgmt in college. I realized that was not an industry I wanted to join,.
For the most part, all of these resorts offered the same experience, and that was a large part of the decline of this kosher resort industry in the Catskill Mountains. Yes, it was like Dirty Dancing, but without the glamor and dancing. So I guess it was just the Dirty part!
This film did a good job (not great) talking about the influence of the borcht belt resorts on the evolution of the entertainment world for many decades. Joan Rivers and Judy Garland were among the regulars back in their respective day. Patti LaBelle performed one weekend when I worked. An entire movie could be devoted to the entertainment aspect topic alone.
The history of kosher resorts in the Catskill Mountains is lengthy and complex. To see the inevitable decline of these resorts is sad. I do like the fact this filmmaker provided updates over a multi-year timeline. Watching Kutchers decline was like watching the slow death of a loved one. Although my personal experience waiting tables was not a happy one, I did learn a lot and it provided me with some much needed insight about life. Heck it provided me with enough insight to write a review 30 years later!
- Jul 5, 2021