At the turn of the 19th century the celebrated Jewish resort area started in the Sullivan and Ulster County Catskills. New Yorkers hungry for mountain air, good food and the American way of leisure came to the mountains by the thousands, and by the 1950s a Half-million people each year inhabited the "summer world" of bungalow colonies, summer camps and small hotels. These institutions shaped American Jewish culture, enabling Jews to become more American while at the same time introducing the American public to immigrant Jewish culture. Home-grown Borscht Belt entertainment provided America with a rich supply of comedians, musicians and performers.
Legions of young men and women used the Catskills as a springboard to successful careers and marriages. The hotels and summer camps of the area provided jobs to thousands of college students who relied on their wages and tips to finance the education that would catapult them (or so they hoped) into the higher reaches of American society. We suspect that Richard Feynman, the Princeton physicist, was not the only Nobel Prize winner to bus tables in the Catskills. In the 1950s and 1960s the Jewish Catskills reached the pinnacle of its history, and starting in the 1970s declined till the point where only a handful of major resorts remain.