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Press

 
 

The New York Times: Guides for Exploring New York by Sam Roberts

“The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland” featuring photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld, provides a vivid, bittersweet record of forsaken archaeological sites that were once beloved summer havens in the Catskills. “To me,” Ms. Scheinfeld writes, “these discarded places are artifacts of time, evidence of change and settings of intrigue.”

 

The Village Voice: The Fallen Glory of the Jewish Alps by R.C. Baker

"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.

Ha'aretz: A new photo book charts the rise and fall of New York’s Catskill Mountains resorts

"I look at the book as the swan song for these hotels; many have been knocked down since it came out. It’s a record of what once was, of a world that's vanished. Even though my photos are sad, this is a record of Jewish history, a celebration of how great it was that American Jews had this wonderful place for so many years."

Hudson Valley Magazine: A Look at What's Left of the Abandoned Borscht Belt Hotels: Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld documents the ruins of abandoned Catskills resorts by Jillian Scheinfeld

"Scheinfeld's images transmit an optic rollercoaster gleaned from growth and decay. A light-flooded room reveals graffiti-strewn walls, peeling paint, and dangling appendages of insulation. Gilded valances shroud a stage that remains in working condition, casually showing off for a room full of empty chairs. Emerald green pine trees poke through a window, reaching out to a sunken mattress coated in a blanket of mottled, wooly moss."

A Photo Editor: This Week in Photography Books by Jonathan Blaustein

"We all know there’s a genre of ruin-porn, which often features weeds and trees growing up in the man-made environment, and if you close your eyes, I bet you can conjure such a picture of Detroit without trying too hard. But this project is something different. Ms. Scheinfeld has done copious research on the cultural history of our respective ancestors, which overlaps with learning more about where she was literally raised, and what’s become of all these former palaces and huts of leisure. Much as I was touched when I walked through Ostia Antica, crumbling ruins outside Rome, or Teotihuacan, the massive pyramids near Mexico City, looking through this book gave me the willies."

 

Paper Magazine: Chatting with Photographer Marisa Scheinfeld About Her Haunting Images of the Borscht Belt by Vrinda Jagota

"The Borscht Belt documents a space that's not dead but evolving, with the massive hotels, pools and furniture getting replaced with ponds, moss and paintball."

The American Historical Association: Picturing Jewish Vacationland: The Borscht Belt, Then and Now by Elizabeth Elliot

"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. "

 

Reading Religion: The Borscht Belt

"Marisa Scheinfeld’s first book is not what I expected. I did not know Scheinfeld or her work, but as a scholar of American Jewish culture, especially humor, the Borscht Belt is a place and idea I think about often. I was both thrilled and frightened therefore when I opened the book and realized Scheinfeld is a photographer, and the bulk of the volume consists of her captivating, horrifying, haunting photographs of the “ruins” of what was the Borscht Belt.  

All of the photographs in The Borscht Belt are remarkable, but I find myself agreeing with Joselit that one thing they make clear is that “Mother Nature has the last laugh” (25). Whether it is a tree growing through a bench, or the grass growing over what was once luxurious wall-to-wall carpet, or snowdrifts inside walls built to keep weather out, Scheinfeld’s collection proves that in the end, nature will find a way. Where once there was so much life, now there is death, seen through the bones and feathers that mark the nests of small predators. But even that is a sign of new life in its own way, and Scheinfeld beautifully illustrates that death and life are never far apart.

Christie's, New York for the Jewish Book Council by Anne Bracegirdle

"Viewers empathize with Scheinfeld because they understand nostalgia for lost youth, profound attachment to physical spaces during formative years, and the compulsive desire to deconstruct personal and more widespread cultural identity. The fear of losing these buildings and spaces that are embedded with historical significance is something that drives both photographers and viewers to this imagery. These haunting states of decay incite a sense of longing and awe that Marisa Scheinfeld has captured exquisitely."

Juedische Allgemeine: Liebeserklärung an die Catskills (Declaration of Love to the Catskills)

Jewish Daily Forward: These Photos Of Borscht Belt Ruins Changed My Life by Marisa Scheinfeld

Tablet Magazine: Ghosts of the Borscht Belt by Marjorie Ingall

"The Borscht Belt is full of lush, mysterious, mournful, sometimes oddly funny photos: crumbling walls, graffiti-filled pools, rusted swings and basketball hoops, stacks of webbed nylon pool lounges crabbed like spider legs; children’s toys half-submerged in murky water, bits of bird skeleton and detritus on industrial carpet, a scattering of festive red, white and blue poker chips on scrabbled ground. There are lovely, melancholy essays by Scheinfeld herself, writer Stefan Kanfer and historian Jenna Weissman Joselit (whose meditation on the resorts’ old chairs is damn near virtuosic). Tablet contributor Maya Benton, with a nod to Susan Sontag’s comment that ‘all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt,’ praised Scheinfeld’s “melancholic images of ruins, detritus and festering vegetation…haunted by an unseen and undefined presence, providing a visual meditation on abandonment and absence.”

 

DVEight: The Borscht Belt by Karen Schoemer

"When I look at Scheinfeld’s photographs, I experience loss and disbelief. And yet the work is compelling for more than its depiction of disaster and decay. In a present rife with anxiety over climate change, she gives us a sneak preview of a world without us, and, if nothing else, reassures us with its still, silent beauty. She brings a surprising empathy to her subject, an almost teen-like enthusiasm for exploration. "

 

Flavorwire: Evocative Photographs of Deserted Catskill Resorts by Sarah Seltzer

"Photographer Marissa Scheinfeld has been visiting the sites of many of these former cultural and social behemoths and capturing what’s left, revealing striking modern-day ruins. 

 

The Jewish Week: The Romance Of Catskills Ruins -- Book explores lost hotels and summers by Jonathan Mark

"Of course, it’s all gone now, the experts will tell you. Like a cop at an accident might say, “nothing to see, move along.” However, Marisa Scheinfeld, like all great photographers, knows there is always something to see. A child of the mountains, she has been photographing the abandoned hotels and bungalows for nearly a decade, her seductive and haunting craft, finally collected in a 188-page book, “The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America’s Jewish Vacationland” (Cornell University Press), featuring essays by Stefan Kanfer, author of “A Summer World,” and Jenna Weissman Joselit, the terrific street-level historian of American Jewish life.

 

Gothamist: This Is What The Abandoned Hotels Of The Borscht Belt Look Like Now by Raphael Pope-Sussman

 

Chronogram: Parting Shot by Hannah Phillips

 

Paper Brigade: Silent Retreat

 

The Jerusalem Post: Beautiful Decay in the Borscht Belt

"In a photography book that is striking in the stark realism of its images, Scheinfeld pays tribute to the Catskill Mountains, which was known to many as the “Borscht Belt” and sometimes called the “Jewish Alps. The Borscht Belt also includes two essays, the first written by Stefan Kanfer, an author and journalist, and the second by Jenna Weissman Joselit, professor of Judaic studies and history at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. The juxtaposition of three reflective and thoughtful essays with such striking photographs will not only be meaningful for people who remember vacationing in the Catskills, but will also strike a chord with anyone who once spent time in a special place that is now totally transformed.

The Times Herald Record: New book documents ruins of Catskills’ resorts by Barry Lewis

"As painful as it was to be reminded of just how much we’ve lost of that the golden era of the Catskills – I can’t imagine losing it all. Even in its ravaged state this is a structure that needs to be preserved.

 

 

New York Times Lens: Resorts Reborn in Decay by John Leland

Using a strategy of “rephotography” advanced by the photographer Mark Klett, who recreated iconic scenes of the American West, Ms. Scheinfeld started revisiting scenes from Catskills postcards and other photographs, then wandering wherever her eye took her. The results are portraits of destruction as well as rebirth, now numbering almost 100 photographs, which she hopes to publish as a book.

 

New York Times:  Punch Lines, Reverberating in the Ruins: ‘Echoes of the Borscht Belt,’ Photos at Yeshiva University by Edward Rothstein

"These photographs, taken from 2010 to 2014, portray an almost casual apocalypse. It’s as if places like those I had visited had not just closed but had been abandoned to an encroaching wilderness, with nothing taking their place. These images are affectionate without being nostalgic. The wreckage they show is almost lush with new growth. And while they really can’t compete with history’s vast iconography of ruin, their effect is unusual: The landscape of abandonment still retains signs of vitality — and we’re aware of the remarkable impact that this vitality had on American popular culture.

Kibitzing in God's Country: The Jewish Review of Books by Neil Gabler

"It is hard to imagine a place once so overstuffed with life now so devoid of it. Scheinfeld’s photos are images of desolation, and one feels the urge to mourn the loss of these “mini-Jerusalems,” but perhaps that wouldn’t quite be in the Grossinger’s spirit.

 

Newsweek: PHOTOGRAPHING THE END OF THE BORSCHT BELT IN THE CATSKILLS by Abigail Jones

"Her first museum exhibit, “Echos of the Borscht Belt: Contemporary Photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld,” takes us claustrophobically close to the skeletal remains of the Catskills’ golden age. he show, which officially opens September 10 at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York City, is haunted by the detritus of what once was: the missing people, the abandoned activities, the desolate places that at one time buzzed with life. 

Photography Review: Marisa Scheinfeld, Denis Brihat and ‘Experiments in Abstraction:' Weeds in the Borscht Belt and Other Flora, Up Close by William Meyers

"It is sad to see nature reasserting itself where so much romance, such stellar entertainment, and such generous heaps of highcholesterol food once flourished. Ms. Scheinfeld’s large-format images show us the tall grass growing in the Pines Hotel’s swimming pool, the graffiti-covered wrecks of Grossinger’s and the Commodore Hotel’s social spaces, and a pink telephone with the handset off the receiver on a stripped bed in Tamarack Lodge. There are weeds growing inside Grossinger’s and it will be a long time before anyone again has a drink at the long row of rusting bar stools. Or the Meyers Family Circle has another reunion at Kutsher’s.

Rediscovering Beauty Amid Ruins of Once-Glorious Catskills by Abigail Jones

"At the Monticello bus stop, I found Scheinfeld wearing loose, baggy clothes — perfect for a day of exploring the Grossinger’s ruins. It’s a far more dangerous pursuit than I had imagined."

The Jewish Week: Brokedown Palace by Jonathan Mark

"There are ruins in the Catskills forests, relics of Jewish hotels, both the grand and the humble. In the desolation is a holy cooing, from the Jewish ghosts and the divinity of nature reclaiming its domain. Moss grows over carpets, once so carefully chosen. The darkened tearooms and nightclubs are now waterlogged, with weeds springing up within shells of buildings that are falling down, not torn down. Marisa Scheinfeld, a photographer documenting this almost apocalyptic transformation, says, “The decay and return of the wild is almost as opulent and lavish as the hotels were in their prime.”

This Is All That’s Left of New York’s Once-Thriving Borscht Belt by Jordan Teicher

"While Scheinfeld admits that her photos “make it look like nothing is happening in Sullivan County” she said pockets of the area have experienced a rebirth and she firmly believes that the rest will someday “reinvent itself.” “I think it has a lot of potential. I have this hope that people will read about my work and maybe revisit what the county has to offer, which in many ways is so much. It just needs some funding and a tourism infrastructure or something new to help it get back on its feet again,” she said.

The Ruins of the Borscht Belt: A ghostly chaise at Grossinger’s, rubble at the Concord, and other photos of once-great Catskills resorts

Jewish Women' Archive: An Interview with Marisa Scheinfeld: Part I & II

 

Nostalgia Trip, Popular Photography by Jon Blistein

"Shooting Kodak Portra 120 on a Pentax 645 and using only natural light, Scheinfeld scours hotels for remnants of the Borscht Belt’s past, focusing on spaces reclaimed by nature (an indoor pool carpeted in moss) or repurposed by recent visitors (a showroom now used as a skate park). This combination elicits warm memories but also deep sadness from former visitors.

Ruins of the Borscht Belt, Ami Magazine by Rabbi Yizhok Frankfurter

When I viewed Marisa Scheinfeld’s magnificent photographs of the ruins of the Borscht Belt, they symbolized for me the story of the disappearing Jewin America through assimilation. Before me were grand hotels in various states of decay along withmere hints of the once prosperous Jewish guests who vacationed in them. What remains of both aretruly only ruins. Yet she interprets the photos differently. She is not, though, entirely dismissive of my interpretation. "Some artists can’t explain their art,” I tell her before saying goodbye. “I find that you are an artist who can articulate her work very well. You combine the visual with the intellect.” I’m still not certain whether her perspective is entirely in sync with mine,however. Butphotos lend themselves to various interpretations, telling different stories to different people.