The Catskills: From James Fenimore Cooper to Milton Berle

From the American founding into the 20th century, the Catskill mountains have represented an alternative to the rapid industrialization and urbanization of New York City and its environs. An engaging, if sometimes confused, new book recounts the history of the mountain range and its multiple transformations. Jay Weiser writes in his review:

By the 1910s, the railroads, eager to attract traffic, offered fares to suit the pocketbooks of members of the massive East European Jewish immigration. Unlike [Washington] Irving, [James Fenimore] Cooper, and the Hudson River painters, [who romanticized the region in their works], the Jewish immigrants lacked nostalgia for a past that their forebears were not part of. Nor, coming from industrial New York City and its giant garment industry, did they share the upscale 19th-century quest for the unspoiled sublime. And so the previously remote (and therefore less expensive) southern Catskills became the scenic-yet-raucous Borscht Belt, with a range of accommodations from humble bungalow colonies to the 1,200-room Concord Hotel, where ladies were expected to change their finery three times a day.

The Borscht Belt also served as a training ground for entertainers: Milton Berle, Buddy Hackett, and Joan Rivers strutted their stuff at the Concord’s Imperial Room. . . . The Borscht Belt resorts’ colorful family owners (and colorful gangsters) and their increasingly lavish facilities (often designed by the pop-modernist master architect Morris Lapidus, best known for his Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach) make for the most vivid episodes here.

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Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: American Jewish History, Architecture, Borscht Belt, History & Ideas, Jewish humor, U.S history

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism