REVIEWS OF THE BORSCHT BELT
Marisa Scheinfeld’s new book, The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland, argues convincingly that the ruins captured by her lens form an essential contribution to the history of American Jewish life. These photographs, when joined with narrative, can help scholars provide a more complete explanation of the socioeconomic developments that brought the Borscht Belt to ruin than written accounts alone. The photographer explains that many of the scenes she captured have already been altered by new visits from teenage trespassers, urban explorers, and animals—topics that can be springboards for new social, material, and environmental histories. The abandoned structures displayed in The Borscht Belt might upset those who still remember the vacationland in its glory days. Scheinfeld (who spent part of her own childhood in the Borscht Belt) put “revisiting” in the book’s title to emphasize the weight of nostalgia on the project. Though some might react to the images with disgust, curiosity, or wonder, in this example of an oft-maligned genre, aesthetic allure is a conduit for new interrogations of the past.
- Elizabeth Elliot for the American Historical Association
“The book notes Woody Allen's quip, no doubt delivered at some point from a Borscht Belt stage: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." Some might say that Scheinfeld arrived half a century too late, but her photos reveal that she showed up just in time to discover mutable beauty in tumbledown dreams.”
- R.C. Baker for The Village Voice