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By: Shayne Benowitz

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, a celebration of Jewish American culture across the country. Officially established in 2006, the observance was created to encourage our society to learn about the Jewish American experience in order to continue to combat ignorance and hatred. Greater Miami & Miami Beach is home to a vibrant Jewish community, with a rich cultural history that dates back to 1913 – when the first Jewish immigrants settled in South Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood – to the post-World War II locale that thrived with Holocaust survivors and Jewish refugees. Whether you’re visiting Greater Miami & Miami Beach in May during Jewish American Heritage Month or at any time of the year, there’s a fascinating Jewish history and legacy to explore here.

Jewish Museum
Discover the permanent MOSAIC collection, highlighting the Florida Jewish experience

Miami’s Jewish Cultural Attractions & Tours

In 1927, Congregation Beth Jacob became the first to erect a synagogue in Miami Beach. Located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Third Street, the historic Art Deco structure is home to the The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU today. Its permanent exhibition, “MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, 1763 to Present,” features photos and artifacts exploring the Florida Jewish experience. It also hosts a variety of fascinating temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Miami Beach is also home to a moving Holocaust Memorial at the corner of Meridian Avenue and Dade Boulevard. It features a dramatic, larger-than-life, bronze arm sculpture by artist Kenneth Treister that rises from the earth, tattooed with an Auschwitz number. If you look closely, you’ll notice smaller human figures crawling up the arm in an attempt to escape. The sculpture is surrounded by a tranquil pond with floating lily pads and a memorial wall engraved with the names of those who perished in the Holocaust.

The Miami Design Preservation League, in partnership with the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, hosts South Beach Jewish Walking Tours that can be booked throughout the week. The two-hour live tour, led by knowledgeable local guide Howard Brayer, dives into the history of Jews in Miami over the past century with stories of prominent people and institutions that shaped the community, while also exploring the unique architecture that rose in Miami Beach over this time period. Additionally, you can take a self-guided walking tour of Miami Beach’s active synagogues. A short stroll south on Meridian Avenue from the Holocaust Memorial, you’ll reach 17th Street, where you’ll find both Temple Beth Shmuel, which is the Cuban Hebrew Congregation of Miami, and Temple Emanu-El, a conservative synagogue, just a few blocks away from one another. Each building is significant for its unique historic architecture. It’s also a chance to get a glimpse of contemporary Jewish life in Miami.

Catch a Performance at a Jewish Cultural Arts Center

Housed inside the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach, the Alan and Diane Lieberman Theater is a thriving performing arts hub for Miami’s Jewish community. A handful of performances are planned during Jewish American Heritage Month 2022, including Spanish-language improv, a theatrical celebration of Jerusalem, a hip-hop dance recital and a youth theater showcase. Check the calendar ahead of your trip and snag tickets.

In addition, plan to see the Miami Jewish Musical Performance by the Greater Miami Youth Symphony Chamber String Ensemble, which takes place at the Miami Jewish Museum in South Miami. This show returns to the stage again this year, and happens a bit earlier than May, on April 24, 2022. Make sure to grab your tickets as soon as you can and get ready for a melodic chamber recital celebrating the Jewish community.

Josh's Deli
Try an updated take on traditional Jewish dishes at Josh’s Deli

Enjoy the Flavors of Jewish American Cuisine

One of the best (and tastiest) ways to learn about a culture is through its food, so check out some of the most revered Jewish American breakfast, lunch and dinner spots in Miami – from New York-style bagels to a modern delicatessen and a kosher steakhouse.

Get your day started on the right foot with a classic bagel and schmear at Roasters ‘n Toasters on Miami Beach’s 41st Street corridor. Order a freshly baked bagel or bialy with your choice of plain, scallion or nova cream cheese. You can also enjoy lox and bagels here or a heartier breakfast of omelets, corn beef hash and matzoh brie. This is a historically Orthodox Jewish area, and it’s worth taking a stroll along the boulevard or adjacent Beachwalk after breakfast to explore more of the area.

Head north to Surfside, another bastion of Jewish culture in Miami, and snag a stool at the counter at Josh’s Deli for an updated take on traditional Jewish delicatessen fare. The hearty menu highlights in-house cured, roasted and smoked meats, like the classic corned beef sandwich on rye with a pickle. You’ll find traditional dishes like matzoh ball soup and latkes with apples and sour cream alongside more inventive options like the lobster “jewchacho” for breakfast, made with over easy eggs, avocado and cheese in mole sauce. The menu is playful and constantly changing.

Also in Surfside, make your way to Kosh, a classic kosher steakhouse, but with a twist. In addition to traditional steakhouse fare, Kosh also has an extensive sushi menu. For the carnivores, start with a classic Caesar salad and move on to the ribeye steak with mashed potatoes. They’ve also got an incredible miso sea bass and tamarind duck. For sushi lovers, they have every roll under the rainbow, from spicy tuna to California, as well as signature rolls like the Happy Jalapeño, made with Hamachi, avocado, cilantro and lime.

Holocaust Names
Honor Jewish culture during the month of May

Miami’s Ties To Jewish American Heritage Month

Without the role Miami played in its origin, the nationally observed Jewish American Heritage Month might not exist today. In 2005, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, along with the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, petitioned Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the idea of creating Jewish American Heritage Month. She spearheaded the legislation in the House of Representatives and on April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed that May would be dedicated to recognizing the cultural contributions of Jews to American life. And it seems there’s no better destination than Greater Miami & Miami Beach to celebrate this special month.

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