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The Catskills and the Holocaust: Winners of the Fiction and Non-fiction Writing Contests


The Catskills Institute and the Jewish Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University are delighted to announce the winners of the fiction and non-fiction writing contests: “The Catskills and the Holocaust.”

Bonnie Shusterman Eizikovitz is co-winner of the fiction contest for he story "Catskills Dreams and Pumpernickel," about a girl nicknamed Pumpernickel by a woman bungalow colony resident, a Holocaust survivor who is a parent figure for the youngster. The woman and her husband, despite his mechanical assistance to whomever asks a favor, are still outsiders because of their unique experience, while young Pumpernickel berates her own parents for their derision of these “greeners.” Memories of the smuggled shofar in the concentration camp mingle with the current holiday in America.

Rita Calderon is the other fiction co-winner for "Waiting for Dovid," a short story centered in 1938 on a girl and her family’s effort to bring her father’s brother to the Catskills hotel where her mother is the chef. The story focuses on the girl's excited anticipation of her uncle's arrival from France, and how a thirteen year old's growth is sped up by adult realities. Memories of other brothers punctuate the conversations, and we see the juxtaposition of Catskills’ pleasures with Europe’s horrors. Through these lenses of complex relationships, family secrets are revealed, as the story explores the themes of love, loss and resilience.

Michael Kirschenbaum won the non-fiction contest for “Forgiving God in the Catskills,” a chapter from his forthcoming memoir tentatively titled: A Jewish Chicken Farmer’s Son. “Forgiving God in the Catskills” focuses on a family visit to Kutsher’s Country Club in the Catskills to celebrate Rosh Hashonah, where a Holocaust survivor and his son. Memories of the Holocaust punctuate the holiday services, as the Catskills are themselves memorialized as the places where “The greeneh were happy to mingle with the others who still embraced and a Jewish culture with European roots.”

All three winners have done beautiful jobs at giving us a glimpse of the Holocaust experience of people in the Catskills and we hope a wide audience will read these writings in order to expand the overall awareness of this critical place and time. You can read them here, on the website of the Catskills Institute or the Jewish Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University.

The contest is sponsored by the Catskills Institute, the Jewish Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University, Jewish Book Council, the “1939” Club, the Sigi Ziering Institute at American Jewish University, Brown University Judaic Studies Program, the Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Symposium, AskAbigail.com, and the Four Seasons Lodge film group.

The contests are part of a book project, Summer Haven: How the Catskills Experienced the Holocaust, edited by Dr. Holli Levitsky, Professor of English and Director of Jewish Studies at Loyola Marymount University, and Dr. Phil Brown, President of the Catskills Institute and Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences at Northeastern University. The book project provides a locus for original research and literature exploring the experience of the Holocaust in the Catskills. To expand knowledge of this subject, Levitsky and Brown welcome any data from readers about the experience in the Catskills in the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath.

The contests were judged by two panels of eminent writers in the field of Jewish literature and scholarship. Non-fiction judges were Hasia Diner, Deborah Dash Moore, and Jonathan Sarna. Fiction judges were Eileen Pollack, Thane Rosenbaum, and Yale Strom.

Each contest winner receives $500 (for the fiction contest, that was split between the two fiction winners). Pending a book contract and the publisher’s agreement on the anthology’s contents, the winning entries will be published in the Levitsky and Brown book and may present their work in a public forum associated with its publication.