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Writing Contest Winners: The Catskills and the Holocaust

Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Permalink

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 “Catskills Dreams and Pumpernickel,” a short story 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 the family’s effort to bring her father’s brother to the Catskills hotels where her mother is the chef. Uncle Dovid arrives, but alone, since visas were denied to the rest of his family. Memories of other brothers punctuate the conversations, and we see the juxtaposition of Catskills’ pleasures with Europe’s horrors. Through these lenses, family secrets are revealed, while Dovid returns to France to try to get his family out.

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 visit to Kutsher’s Country Club in the Catskills to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, with a Holocaust survivor and his sons. 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 written beautiful stories, each of which opens up the world of the Holocaust experience of people in the Catskills. We hope a wide audience will read these stories in order to expand the overall awareness of this critical place and time. You can read them on the website of the Catskills Institute (http://catskills.brown.edu) or the Jewish Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University( http://bellarmine.lmu.edu/jewishstudies/).

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 originated as part of a book project, Summer Haven: The Catskills, the Holocaust and the Literary Imagination, 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 of 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 R. 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.