As the summer holiday season begins, Jewish Treats presents a mini-biography of Jennie Grossinger, who was once called “the best-known hotel keeper in America.” Her drive and her hosting skills built the famous Grossinger Resort in the Catskills Mountains, NY, which, in the mid-twentieth century, was the “go-to place” to vacation (especially for Jews who were often excluded from other resorts).
Jennie Grossinger was born on June 16, 1892, in Galicia (Austria). She came to America at age 8. By the time she was 14, she had dropped out of school and was earning money for the family as a button hole maker. In 1912, Jennie married her first cousin, Harry Grossinger.
When Jennie’s father bought a small farm in Sullivan County, NY, in 1914 as a means of escaping the city, Jennie joined her family there (Harry came on weekends). Alas, the soil was not ideal for farming, so the Grossingers began taking in summer boarders. The farmhouse was large but simple. There was no electricity and no indoor plumbing, but the Grossingers provided their guests with charming company, a relaxing atmosphere and extraordinary kosher dining. After several successful summers, the Grossingers were able to purchase a much larger piece of property and open a real resort.
Jennie immediately oversaw the installation of tennis courts, created a bridle path, hired a social director and organized a children’s camp. There were activities for everyone and top notch entertainers (many of whom went on to become famous), as well as sporting events (boxing matches and ice skating, when they were opened in the winter).
During World War II, Jennie raised millions for war bonds and organized a “canteen-by-mail” for former employees serving abroad. A war plane was named “Grossinger” in her honor. Following the war she became a renowned philanthropist and a supporter of Israel.
Harry Grossinger passed away in 1964, as which time Jennie gave the hotel to her children, Paul and Elaine. She lived on a cottage on the estate until her death on November 20, 1972. By the time Jennie died, the hotel had grown to 35 buildings on 1,200 acres that served 150,000 guests a year. The hotel closed its doors in 1986.
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