Miamis Jewish Community


The legacy and the saga of the Miami’s Jewish community have been a legendary and a monument to the Judaism and the humanity of the region. Although now, its population has declined, the Miami Jewish community population remains at a close to 150,000 people and many areas of the county being the centers of and central to Jewish life in south Florida. Some of the great historians like Seth H. Bramson have written most of the historical events of the Miami’s Jewish community. This discussion outlines the historical background of the Miami’s Jewish community majorly giving a focus on their economy, education, population, their social problems, recreations centers, and politics in Miami community.

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Background and History of the Miami’s Jewish Community

Miami community remains a hostile environment, but a fledgling tourist industry with sustained optimism. This community was a state among the states latest communities to be developed in America. Miami-Dade County was composed of 32 cities with Miami’s Jewish community being one of the counties and the largest and oldest city. Miami’s Jewish community was founded in 1896 when an extension of the Henry Flagler was done which eventually attracted Jews to the place for economic opportunities. Miami was one of the last cities to develop a Jewish community, which has been transformed in little more than a century from a settlement of frontiersmen to the core of the nation’s third largest Jewish community” (Zerivitz par.1). Among the first Jews to arrive in the area were Sam singer and Jacob schneidman. This city of Miami was incorporated as a county in July 28, 1896. In the year 1904, Isidor Cohen, who was the father of Greater Miami’s Jewish community got married to Ida Schneidman and gave birth to a daughter in 1906 (Tigay, 4). In 1912, this Jewish tourist died forcing the Jewish community to gather for a discussion on where he was to be buried. During this time, they formed their first congregation in Miami. The Jews has for a long time endured great pain, as other religions and ethnic groups constantly persecuted them.

From the time of the Romans, to Hitler and even now, millions of Jewish people have suffered and even been killed such as in the case of the Holocaust. Jews have always thought of escaping their oppressors but sometimes they succeeded, and yet other times, they became victims of violence and perished. According to Steve Israel, a researcher from the University of Miami, the United States of America was the destination of first choice of many oppressed and persecuted peoples including the Jews (par. 4). The United States is recognized for being the country in which dreams come true; therefore, Jews came from many parts of the world to establish a new life in the United States. Nowadays, 113,000 Jewish people live in Miami, which is part of a tri-county region that has the second highest concentration of Jews in the nation. In Miami, the Jewish population has created and contributed to the many cultural places like museums and memorials as well as establishing activities so that people can learn about them and their stories. Studies have shown, that the Jewish community located in Miami, possesses unique characteristics because of their tragic history.

The population of the Miami’s Jewish Community as per the religious and the varying data population show that it is one of the great homes to almost the largest or even the second largest, after Israel Jewish community in the whole world to be part of the tri-county region. According to the 2004 Miami Jewish community demographic study, which was released by greater Miami Jewish federation, Miami has a Jewish population of 113,000 people. This study was conducted by Ira M. Sheskin, a Ph.D. and an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Regional Studies at the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami. He gave a statement that “While we are a smaller population in Miami-Dade County since the last study was conducted, the percentage of people who have lived here for 20 or more years have increased” (Caroline 32). The population of these Jews was estimated to be about 5,127,000 (1.70) of the total population in the year 2007 (301,620,000) including those that were identifying themselves to be culturally Jews and not necessarily religiously. This population had been estimated at 6,900,000 (2.21%) as of the year 2008.

Economy of Miami’s Jewish community

Most of the Miami’s early merchants were Jewish, with Isidor, who was a signer of the City’s charter and a founder of the various business associations. This eventually became the Chamber of Commerce in the region. This person was also a civic activist, a pre-eminent among the founders of Miami’s first synagogue called the Temple B’nai Zion. As many people migrated to the region, Miami Beach became a desirable place for many people in 1921, and Nemo a Jewish owned hotel was established (Marcia Jo Zerivitz 7). However, in 1930s, there was a dismantling on Miami Beach in which, a restrictive barrier to Jewish ownership of real estate was established. This was due to a large numbers of Jews who purchased properties from debt-ridden owners only to be happy to sell them. While discrimination had by no means vanished, conditions were improving. Because of the widespread use of air conditioning, development of the airport, mosquito control program and the arrival of an Israeli businessperson, Ted Arison’s who expanded the cruise ship business, the tourist industry was revitalized. During the post-war economic boom, many of the tourist and settlers came to settle in Miami. They were attracted by new jobs created from tourism, building industries, and the real estates. In mid 1960s, Most of them was involved in the retail and service trade with many of them moving to the medical and legal professions.

Today the American Jewish community especially those living within the surroundings of Miami Beach are considered, as a whole, to be prosperous and well established. Also, there is a lot of resurgence of Orthodoxy especially in the young upcoming families in that by the nature of the decline in  number of population in the Miami beach, the rise in the value of real estate has forced many of the Jews to close their doors and become retail stores and night clubs. However, apart from wide range of incomes, there are significant number of individuals with pockets of poverty and distress, especially in the older generation and among new immigrants to the region. Many of the established Jewish agencies are dealing with this social problems arising in the region. Apart from poverty, there is drug abuse and alcoholism especially among the youth; a great wide spread of AIDS in the region; domestic violence and family abuse which has resulted to homelessness of children. Indeed, in the recent years a number of these organizations have risen along with increased recognition that these problems do exist within the Jewish community. As the community developed and the need for humanitarian rose, more organizations were created for business networking. Among the Jewish women, they held a rummage sale with an intention of raising funds to help themselves and their family’s welfare.

Education history of Miami’s Jewish community

With the large number of Jewish people in the region, Jewish community at large owned private schools, including the Hebrew Academy on Miami Beach, which has became essential in promulgating and promoting the Jewish education. In one instance, a public high school called Miami Beach High was placed in effect to be a public parochial school with over ninety percent estimates of population being Jewish student at the school. For a number of years, the number one rated academic public high school in America from the late 1940’s until the very early 1970’s has been the Miami Beach High School with an exception of Bronx High School of Science. At the moment there are currently over 360 Jewish day schools in America, most of which are providing elementary education for about 30% of Jewish children in the United States. Most of these are Orthodox (perhaps 80%), but the trend towards Jewish day schools has been growing much stronger in the other streams, as well as, leading to the opening of over 100 unaffiliated community Jewish day schools.

In addition to formal kind of education, different kinds of Jewish camps have flourished in America for many years, some of which have a connection to the Jewish Agency for Israel. There are also a large number of upcoming Jewish youth organizations and youth movements in the region, which are so far affiliated to the various streams of Jewish adult organizations.

Religious and political history of Miami’s Jewish community

The first synagogue in Miami community called the Bnai Zion was established in 1912. It is currently the Beth David synagogue on Southwest Third Avenue in the United States. During its establishment, it had a number of 32 people (Beth Weiss par. 5). Services were held at sometimes in public halls until late 1920s when Beth David acquired its first building. The need for large quarters in their midst brought the congregation to its present location, which is now Carol way in 1949. However, with a famous Miami personality who was called Alfred Stone, a political activist during the Civil Rights era, through his leadership several synagogues in Miami and Jacksonville were bombed. The religious orientation in this community is highly diversified, whereby it includes the three main streams or movements of modern Judaism: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative, as well as other movements and organized forms of Judaism. In the recent years, a noticeable trend of the secular Miami Jews is coming up to be more watchful, mostly the Orthodox, lifestyle. Such Jews are known as Baalei Teshuva. It is uncertain how demographically or widespread vital this movement is now. According to a research done by Miami Religious Identification Survey, which was carried out in the year 2008 found that, about 3.4 million Miami Jews refer to themselves as religious out of the common Jewish population of approximately 5.5 million in America. The varied number of Jews who decided to identify themselves as culturally Jewish has increased from 21% in the year in 1990 to 38% in the year 2008, regarding to the study. In the same time, the number of all United States adults who said that they did not have religion rose from 9% to 18%. Lotz says, “Jews are likely to be more secular than the Americans in particular.” About 1/2 of all United States Jews  including those who usually consider themselves observant religiously claim in the research that they have a worldly view and see no disagreement between their faith, regarding to the study’s authors. Surveyors attribute the trends between Miami Jews to the increasing rate of disaffection and intermarriage from Judaism in the United States.

Politically, Miami Jewish community have been extremely active in combating discrimination and prejudice, and have always historically been very active participants in movements of the civil right. In the mid 20th century, Miami Jews were the most active supporters and participants of the civil right of the black movement. Though this community generally avoided political issues, it suddenly founded itself in a political spotlight. One of the political founders of the community called Bernado Benes was the active member in Dade County (Seth par.6). As a community, they also founded a Political Zionism, which was an organized movement in the United States with the participation of Louis and the British promise of homeland in the Declaration of Balfour in1917. Henry declares, “Jewish Americans planned large boycotts of the German merchandise in the 1930s, to protest the rule of Nazi in Germany.” Franklin D. leftist household policies got strong Jewish support in 1930s and in 1940s, as anti-Nazi unfamiliar policy and his support of the United Nations. Support for the political Zionism in that period; though developing in influence, still remained a very distinct minority opinion between German Jews until 1944-45. The beginning of Israel in the year 1948 came up with the Middle East a great center of attention; the instant recognition of the Israel by the government of American was an indication of its intrinsic support and the effect of political Zionism. This lead to greater recognition of the community nationally.

The Jews have also, from its founding been supportive of an active numbers in the struggle for the American gay rights. Seymour suggests that, the momentous struggle beside prejudice met by the Jews led to a very natural understanding for any individuals confronting discrimination. Joachim, the president of the Jewish American Congress, when he spoke at the podium during the Lincoln Memorial on Washington on 1963 August 28. He gave a statement that “As Jews we have to bring to this enormous demonstration, in which hundreds of Jews fairly participated, a twofold knowledge on one of our history and one of our spirit” (Marcia 15). He continued and said that “From our Jewish remarkable experience of the three and a ½ thousand years that we say: Our ancient narration started with slavery and the longing for freedom. Higgins Asserts, by saying that “During the Mid Ages my society lived for some thousand years in the Europe ghettos. It is for the above reasons that it is not simply compassion and sympathy for the black people of the America that motivates us. It is, beyond all above all and such emotions and sympathies, a sense of total identification born of our own aching historic experience,


Even with the Cuban influx, however, the population of greater Miami Jewish community has been in decline since the late 1990’s. This is because of many people moving to Broward, south Palm Beach County, and Palm Beach Counties, which is now having the fastest growing Jewish population in America. So far, the Jewish Community of Miami has actually gone through great accomplishment and tumult times. Nevertheless, with its increasing assorted population, the Jews have made it achievable to become a tourist-tilting city into a real cosmopolitan. Jews has also commenced taking their interest towards relationships with other nations. The Miami’s Jewish Community economic activities have also drastically improved due to tourism. Their city Miami has become a great tourist attraction for many nations in the world. In addition, this Jewish community has made a great impact to the larger part of America despite its relatively limited number. They have so far provided a large percentage of skilled and educated personnel in the major sectors in the nation. In the recent past, Jewish communities have also taken major responsibilities in the American industry, academia, economy, and culture.

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