History of the Jews in southern Florida

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The history of the Jews in South Florida dates back to the early 19th century. Many South Florida Jews are Ashkenazi (descendants of Russian, Polish, and Eastern European ancestry), and many are also Cuban, Brazilian, Latin American (Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Peru), Russian, French, Moroccan, Syrian, Bukharian, and Israeli. There is a significant Sephardic and Mizrachi population as well.

Presently, there are approximately 514,000 Jews living in Southeast Florida.

Key West, Florida Jewish history[edit]

The exact origins of the Key West Jewish Community are not dated, but Jews were first recorded in the city in the 1880s, when the community was organized by Joe Wolfson, Abraham Wolkowsky and Mendell Rippa. It is believed that most settlers were escaping European persecution at the time. Some early settlers were shipwrecked and decided to make a living in the city. In 1887, Congregation B’nai Zion was founded in Key West, Fl. Morris Zion served as its first president.[1] B'nai Zion's building was built in 1969, and it adheres to Conservative Judaism, though it has a Liberal slant.[2] In 1895, Jewish Key West residents supported the independence of Cuba from Spain.

West Palm Beach, Florida Jewish history[edit]

Jews first settled in the city of West Palm Beach in 1892.

Miami, Florida Jewish history[edit]

Jews first permanently settled in the Miami, Florida area in 1896. In 1907, the first bris occurred in Miami-Dade County. It was for Eddie Cohen. In 1913, B’nai Zion, the first congregation in Miami-Dade County, was founded. It later was renamed as Beth David. In 1953, Abe Aronovitz became the first and only Jewish mayor of Miami.

Broward County, Florida Jewish History[edit]

In 1910, Louis Brown was the first Jew to settle in Broward County.

Miami Beach, Florida Jewish History[edit]

The first Jewish family to settle in Miami Beach was the Weiss family, Joseph and Jennie and their children, in 1913. They later opened Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant. The first congregation in Miami Beach was Beth Jacob, which was formed in 1927. The congregation built the first synagogue in 1929 (now the Jewish Museum of Florida.) In 1943, the first of 16 Jewish mayors of Miami Beach, Mitchell Wolfson, was elected to office.

Other history[edit]

Jewish religious observance in South Florida[edit]

There are nearly 189 synagogues and congregations built to serve over 500,000 Jews in South Florida.[3]

Orthodox Judaism[edit]

There are approximately 77 Orthodox synagogues and congregations in South Florida.[4]

Conservative Judaism[edit]

There are approximately 60 Conservative synagogues and congregations in South Florida.[5] Notable synagogues include The Cuban Hebrew Congregation.

Reform Judaism[edit]

There are approximately 40 Reform synagogues and congregations in South Florida.[6] Notable synagogues include Congregation Ahavath Chesed and Temple Beth-El (Pensacola, Florida)

Reconstructionist Judaism[edit]

There are three established Reconstructionist synagogues and congregations in South Florida: Congregation Kol Ami (Palm Beach County), Ramat Shalom (Broward County), and Temple Beth Or (Miami-Dade County).[7]

Chabad in southern Florida[edit]

Chabad and its affiliated Adult Educational organization The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute are active in Florida. [8] [9] [10] [11]

Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens[edit]

Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens aims to bring together the Jewish Community of the greater Palm Beach and Jupiter area and to serve the spiritual, educational and social needs of the community.[12]

Chabad of Boca Raton[edit]

Chabad of Boca Raton, Florida.

Chabad of Boca Raton is a Chabad house located in Boca Raton founded in 1989, the present building was erected in 1999.[13] In 1990 city officials permitted it to erect a menorah in Sanborn Square, a city park.[14][15][16]

Significant South Floridian communities and their Jewish populations[edit]

Prominent South Floridian Jews[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://jewishmuseum.com/time_fla.html
  2. ^ http://www.bnaizionkw.org/history.htm
  3. ^ http://www.jewishsouthflorida.com/Category/Jewish-Community-Resources/Synagogues/
  4. ^ http://www.jewishsouthflorida.com/Category/Jewish-Community-Resources/Synagogues/Orthodox/
  5. ^ http://www.jewishsouthflorida.com/Category/Jewish-Community-Resources/Synagogues/Reform/
  6. ^ http://www.jewishsouthflorida.com/Category/Jewish-Community-Resources/Synagogues/Reform/
  7. ^ http://www.jewishsouthflorida.com/Category/Jewish-Community-Resources/Synagogues/Reconstructionist/
  8. ^ Benveniste, Shelley (October 10, 2013). "Promoting Jewish Medical Ethics in Boca Raton". The Jewisih Press. The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute(JLI) will present Life in the Balance: Jewish Perspectives on Everyday Medical Dilemmas, the institute’s new six-session Fall 2013 course that will begin during the week of Tuesday, October 29. 
  9. ^ Benveniste, Shelley (January 17, 2013). "Rohr JLI Presents Living with Integrity Series". The Jewish Press. “Living with Integrity” challenges students to articulate their own opinions while providing practical Talmudic wisdom to help them navigate life’s inevitable ethical challenges. The course will not only provide the tools to make appropriate decisions, it will also enhance interaction with family and friends. 
  10. ^ "Looking at Jewish Positive Psychology through the 3,000-year-old lens of Jewish thought". Heritage Florida Jewish News. October 31, 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014. “How Happiness Thinks brings together modern research in positive psychology and ancient Jewish wisdom,” explains Prof. Ben-Shahar, a renowned expert in the field who has authored five books and today teaches at IDC Herzliya, “This marriage between theology and science can bring about significant positive change in individuals and communities.” The course explores to what degree surroundings and circumstances effect ones overall happiness, potential challenges to living a joyous life, and whether G-d cares if people are happy or not. 
  11. ^ "Chabad Lubavitch launching new educational series". Cape Coral, Florida. Cape Coral Daily Breeze. August 24, 2012. The Jewish Learning Institute is the first international educational institution to present traditional Judaism in a professional, innovative, academically challenging yet accessible format. The JLI was created to address the need of Jews for in-depth Jewish knowledge. Authorities on each subject have organized the curriculum and teaching materials for each course. As the world's pre-eminent provider of adult Jewish learning with 350 chapters around the globe, JLI's mission is to make the wisdom of Jewish learning accessible to everyone. 
  12. ^ "Six Sessions Explore Ecclesiastical Law". Crown Heights Info. West Palm Beach, FL — After a quick kosher lunch of eggplant spread, bagels and hummus, the room full of lawyers and judges moved on to a dessert they clearly relished: The law. 
  13. ^ The Rebbe's Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch, Sue Fishkoff, Random House, 2009, Chapter 2, Chabad Hits South Florida.
  14. ^ Boca Allosw Park Display of Menorah; New Stance Staves Off Suit by Jewish Group, December 11, 1990, Sun Sentinel, Elaine A, Ellis.
  15. ^ It's Beginning to Look...., Editorial, Miami Herald,December 13, 1990.
  16. ^ Jewish Group Sues Boca Over Display Lubavitchers Want, South Florida Sun - Sentinel, December 8, 1990.
  17. ^ http://www.realfloridajewishdirectory.com/florida/map_broward.htm
  18. ^ http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Fort_Lauderdale-Florida.aspx
  19. ^ http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Pembroke_Pines-FL.aspx
  20. ^ http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Plantation-Florida.aspx
  21. ^ http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Davie-Florida.aspx
  22. ^ http://www.realfloridajewishdirectory.com/florida/map_palmbeach.htm
  23. ^ Jewish Telegraph: "Study: Miami Jewry sees first increase since 1975" By Uriel Heilman October 13, 2014
  24. ^ http://www.realfloridajewishdirectory.com/florida/map_miamidade.htm
  25. ^ http://www.bestplaces.net/city/Miami_Beach-Florida.aspx
  26. ^ http://www.realfloridajewishdirectory.com/florida/map_tampabay.htm

External links[edit]