I recently heard this term used and wondered what it meant. The Borscht Belt or Jewish Alps referred to summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains, New York. Most of these resorts are no longer in operation. These resorts were popular vacation spots for New York City Jews from the 1920s to the 1960s. The resort area consisted of bungalows, hotels, summer camps and boarding houses most frequently rented by middle and working class Jews who, for the most part, had roots in Central and Eastern Europe. Thus the name Borscht Belt was refers to borscht, a type of Ukrainian soup.
As air travel became cheaper after World War II, the Catskills saw a decline in tourists. Many people opted for more exotic destinations. Today, many Orthodox Jewish families visit here for summer vacation. Some of the hotels have been turned into religious schools. Currently, there are plans to turn some of the resorts into gambling casinos.
Many comedians performed at the resorts and even got their start there. Woody Allen, Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, George Burns, Red Buttons, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller, Buddy Hackett, Danny Kaye, Jackie Mason, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers and Jonathan Winters were just a few of the comedians to perform here.
One of the resorts, Kutcher’s, was the setting for the movie Dirty Dancing.