The Catskills Cultural Revolution: Jennie Grossinger
On June 16, 1892, Jennie Grossinger was born to a Jewish family in the province of Galicia, at the time a region of Austria – though later incorporated into Poland, and eventually into the Ukraine.
Jennie Grossinger and her family immigrated to New York’s Lower East Side in 1900, a reprieve from the antisemitism, pogroms and economic hardship that plagued much of European Jewry at the time. Soon after, her father purchased a farm in the Catskills, where the family began to take in boarders. Their business on the farm, surprisingly successful, inspired him to purchase a nearby hotel. In time, Jennie came to run the hotel herself — which became a full-blown resort — overseeing the business as it flourished. Under Jennie’s direction, the hotel boasted 600 rooms, 800 acres, and a 1,700 seat kosher dining room, welcoming as many as 150,000 guests each year.
The resort’s success can be attributed, at least in part, to the discriminatory norms that restricted Jews from vacationing closer to the city, forcing them outwards into the Catskills. Jewish New Yorkers who made this trek, however, found themselves part of a distinct culture, a beautiful terrain, and a new Jewish identity in the making; with Jennie Grossinger a near-celebrity at its center.
Jennie was beloved for her hospitality as much as for her philanthropy; she raised funds for medical research and hospitals, for veterans, as well, though she reserved a particular passion for charitable work in education. Many hailed Jennie as a leader, including the Jewish War Veterans, the South Hudson, NJ, Women’s Division of the American Jewish Congress, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller, himself. It was Governor Rockefeller, indeed, who resolved to designate June 16th “Jennie Grossinger Day” in New York State.