There’s more to Florida’s history than you know: Explore the Jewish Museum of Florida

Miami Beach, FL – The JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA chronicles the little-known nearly 250-year history of Jewish life in Florida as an example of the immigrant acculturation process of all people in Florida – and in America.

The Jewish Museum of Florida opened in April 1995 when a group of visionary Floridians rescued an abandoned art deco historic synagogue on South Beach from demolition. They restored and transformed the building as a place to house the growing collections and as a bright and sunny showcase for an award-winning historical exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida. This core exhibit project was begun in the mid-1980s in a statewide grassroots effort to collect and preserve photos, artifacts, documents and oral histories of thousands of Jewish families throughout the state of Florida. The Museum received accreditation in 2002 by the American Association of Museums, an honor granted to only 3% of the nation’s museums.

Florida hosts the nation’s third largest Jewish community – 850,000 people, but is perceived to have a “new” Florida Jewish history starting after World War II. In reality, Jews have been allowed to live in the state only since 1763 when Florida was taken from the Spanish, who permitted only Catholics, and turned over to the British in the Treaty of Paris following the French and Indian War. The first Jews settled in Pensacola that year. The man who brought Florida into statehood and served as its first U.S. senator (and the first Jew to serve in the U.S. Congress) was a Jew, David Levy Yulee.

The Jewish Museum of Florida has been heralded as a cultural jewel of Miami Beach and in 1980 earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, with a unique copper dome, was completed in 1936. It was designed by noted Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser as an Orthodox synagogue for Miami Beach’s first Jewish congregation. Rabbi Moses Mescheloff, who served the congregation from 1937 to 1955, designed the marble Torah-reading bimah and 80 colorful stained glass windows, which are still intact.

The MOSAIC core exhibit is a joyous celebration of family, community, culture and commerce. The stories are personal, yet universal – the immigrant experience of struggle, survival and success. The memories define the Jewish people and help continue the traditions, while furthering the understanding and tolerance among diverse ethnicities.

In addition to the core exhibit, the Museum mounts exhibits that change three times each year, some original and some traveling exhibitions – always with a Florida connection. Cultural and educational public programs complement each exhibit theme and visitors enjoy several films, a timeline of Jewish history, interactive computers, and the Museum Store. The Collections and Research Center includes photos, documents and oral histories from hundreds of families throughout Florida.


• An experience for people of all ages and backgrounds
• Docent-guided tours for all visitors
MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida core exhibit that depicts Jewish life in Florida since 1763
• World-class and compelling temporary exhibits that change three times each year
• Timeline of state, national and world Jewish history
• Film presentations depicting immigration at various timepoints in history, the two-year, two million dollar restoration of the building, and Jewish life and holiday cycles
• Museum Store with Judaica items, books, cards and gifts for all occasions
• Public programs: lectures, films, storytelling, discussions and concerts
• Vast inventory of photos, documents, artifacts and oral histories
• Treasure trove of stories about Jewish traditions, where Florida Jews originally came from, how they made a living, how they helped develop their communities, and how they established Jewish organizations and institutions to pass on their heritage
• Walking tours, travel tours and special events
• Space available for functions: luncheons, dinners, receptions and theater-style events

The Jewish Museum of Florida is located at 301 Washington Avenue in the South Beach section of Miami Beach. Open daily 10 am to 5 pm except Mondays and civil and Jewish holidays. Admission: Adults/$6; Seniors (65 and over) & Students/$6; Families/$12; Members and children under 6/Free. Saturdays/Free. For information, call 305-672-5044, ext. 24, or visit


Through October 30, 2005 Treasures of Florida’s Jews and Hebraica Mirrors
November 15, 2005 – February 26, 2006 The Joys of Tolerance – Twelve Tribes & Florida Diversity (Artist: Anette Pier)
March 7, 2006 – August 20, 2006 Avoda – Objects of the Spirit (Artist: Tobi Kahn)
September 12, 2006 – March 2007 Bonim – Jewish Developers Building Florida – Building Community
For additional information, please contact Steve Kravitz, Marketing Director, at 305-672-5044, ext. 21, or by e-mail at