Some of the reasons that the average person follows pro-sports (according to what we discussed) included an internal need to be part of a club and societal pressures. This week we will get a little closer and offend people more fiercely by reminding people that in the good old days racism was accepted, smoking was encouraged and the word “depression” was still politically correct.
Not everything in our past is good. Even if something was good that doesn’t mean it should be kept part of the present. The Model-T Ford was a breakthrough in automotive technology, but it belongs in a museum, not on the highway. Similarly there are nostalgic aspects of Jewish culture which should be put in a museum.
As with the pro-sports, I understand that someone who was a mainstay in the Catskills will want to preserve the life that it once represented. I happen to care more about Mount Freedom (a parallel Jewish resort area in New Jersey) since my grandmother was the first baby born there. While Mount Freedom’s Saltz’s might be considered its version of Grossinger’s, there is no comparison. Indisputably, Grossinger’s was the biggest, most glamorous hotel of the Catskills. From ski slopes (the first to ever use artificial snow) to golf course (still open) to airstrip, Grossinger’s property is almost one and a half times the size of Central Park. Of course, it also closed down in 1986. Hotels open and hotels close and that’s fine. People who wish to reminisce about the Catskill Mountains should either be people who worked there or went there annually and historians. It is no more a part of Jewish culture for people today than an abandoned shtetl in Europe.
Historians and old people. That’s with whom the Borscht Belt (the Catskills) should remain. Frankly, they should also take borscht to the museum and while I happen to like herring and gefilte fish, they too should have been retired long ago. The museum is also where Yiddish should go. The amazing thing is not that people want to keep Yiddish around. The amazing thing is that people seem to think that Yiddish is a relatively new concept. It’s not. Yiddish, while the primary street language for Ashkenazic Jews for over 700 years, it is not the Jewish language. Most famously, Yiddish had a parallel language, Ladino. Ladino is the Sephardic Jewish culture language of essentially the same time period. Less famously, there are over a dozen other Jewish dialects of languages. The Aramaic of the Talmud? That’s not Aramaic, that’s Judeo-Aramaic. In fact, the first major population of Jews not to try to incorporate the native language into a Jewish dialect is the one in America. Part of the reason may have been its desire to hold on to Yiddish and the rest of the customs of the old days. For a population so opposed to buying German cars this generation of Jews seemingly sees no hypocrisy in the love affair they’ve maintained with its language.
There are certainly many other “days of yore” Jewish cultural customs that need reflection and possibly amputation. It is a cancer that stunts the growth of Jewish culture that on so many issues we choose to live the past instead of remembering it. Remember where you came from, know where you are and anticipate where you will be.
Next: An analysis of religion: Is it like sports – an expression of the need to be part of a group? Is it like the Catskills-an expression of nostalgia that we forgot to let go? Is it something else?