Movie Review: Welcome To Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort

This is a review of a documentary following the decline of the last of the Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains in the State of New York.  This film follows the decline of Kutsher’s Country Club resort; it had survived decades of changes for 107 years.  Watching this film brought to mind the resorts in the film “Dirty Dancing” or more recently the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel”.

The Catskill Mountain resorts were all-inclusive resorts with an American meal plan of three meals a day.  Guests could order all that they chose to eat.  If they were interested in three different entrees; the wait staff would honor their requests.  Many of the wait staff had been with the resort for forty years.  All meals observed kosher requirements as this was something drew the guests to the Jewish resorts.

Kutsher’s Country Club resort and other similar resorts had their heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  The Catskill Mountain resorts were close to New York City and accommodated the Jewish community at a time when they were not welcome at resorts in the Adirondack Mountains or elsewhere.  Many families went to Kutsher’s year after year and looked forward to bringing their children and grandchildren.  Fresh air and day time sports and activities, along with a night club and other big name entertainment was free to the guests and it drew many New York City residents to the Catskill resorts.

The activities list was impressive.  There was a golf course, a mini-golf course, 2 swimming pools, the beach, tennis, and an ice skating rink.  Additionally there were professionals providing exercise programs, lessons in swimming, golf, tennis, ice skating, painting and of course ballroom dancing.  They also included guest lecturers on various topics of interest to the resort guest.

The entertainment grew more sophisticated as time went on at the resort.  At one point up and coming basketball players were invited to play on Wednesday nights.  Also, there was a boxer in residence and boxing matches were held at the resort.  These events drew crowds from outside the area and creating a great deal of publicity.

As with many things, these resorts had run their course.  The overt discrimination against the Jewish community faded and travel options became more plentiful.  Former guests of the Catskill Mountain resorts were free to go to other vacation destinations.  Miami and Los Angeles became favorite travel areas.  It was warm in Florida and California when the New York winters seemed so long and frigid.

The Kutsher family stated that they thought that cruise lines had lifted a page from their play book.  Cruises offered all-inclusive package deals that included room accommodations, three meals a day, all the on-board entertainment and sunny destinations.  Cruises typically include dance lessons, swimming pools, hot tubs, mini-golf and waterslides on the larger and newer ships.  The Catskill resorts of yesterday have become today’s all-inclusive cruises to warm weather.  Kosher cruises that cater to the Jewish community are available to those who observe Jewish customs and practices.

What has been lost is the warmth and the charm and sense of community that the Catskill resorts provided.  Also gone is the employment of many local New York state residents.  Although the Catskill resorts have gone, there are many resorts in the Adirondack Mountain area welcoming families to the area.  Many happy memories were made in the Catskill resorts and that may provide a sense of warmth to all of us in the cold winter months.

Reviewed by Justine.

Find this item streaming on Kanopy.