Jewish American Heritage Month

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Jewish Museum of Florida

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Interior of the Jewish Museum of Florida

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Entrance of the New World Symphony

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By: Shayne Benowitz

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is your headquarters for celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month in May. This nationally observed heritage month has deep roots in South Florida that you may not even realize. In 2005, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation along with the Jewish Museum of Florida, petitioned then-freshman Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the idea of creating Jewish American Heritage Month. She spearheaded the legislation with the House of Representatives and on April 20, 2006, President George W. Bush proclaimed that May would be dedicated to celebrating the cultural contributions of Jews to American life.

Jewish American Heritage Month encourages all races, religions, cultures and ethnic groups to celebrate and learn about the Jewish American experience in order to continue to combat ignorance and hatred of all people. The month is a great time to acknowledge and learn about the achievements of American Jews in the fields of sports, arts and entertainment, medicine, business, science, government and military service over the past 350 years. This year’s theme is “American Jews and ‘Tikkun Olam’: Healing the World.”

Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU & Jewish American Heritage Month Celebrations

Set inside a historic synagogue built in 1936 in South Beach’s South of Fifth (SoFi) neighborhood, the Jewish Museum of Florida is dedicated to the history of Jews in Florida and around the world with a fascinating permanent collection, as well as a dynamic calendar of temporary exhibitions.

American Jews and Music

To celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, the Jewish Museum of Florida is launching a special exhibition “American Jews and Music.” It will draw from the museum’s collection to highlight the contributions of Jewish musicians including Ruth Greenfield, a pianist and activist who founded Miami’s Fine Arts Conservatory in 1951 to desegregate music education and concerts. Other musicians include Mana Zucca, pianist and composer; George Orner, president of Jacksonville College of Music and conductor of the Jacksonville Symphony; Paul Wolfe, conductor of the West Coast Symphony; and Irwin Rabinowitz, one of the last American sheet music engravers who worked with such iconic acts as Elvis Presley, Irving Berlin, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.

The museum will also partner with New World Symphony and its conductor Michael Tilson Thomas for a number of musical performances and events throughout the month of May. One of these performances will take place on Sunday, May 6, from 11 a.m. to noon, when the Greater Miami Youth Symphony Chamber String Ensemble performs a chamber recital under the musical direction of Huifang Chen. Sunday, May 20, is another great time to visit the museum for family programming, art lessons and story time throughout the day.

Stranded in Shanghai, 1946

The exhibition “Stranded in Shanghai, 1946” will run through May 20, displaying 22 photographs by Arthur Rothstein, a prominent Jewish American photojournalist. What many people don’t realize is that 18,000 Central European Jews were granted sanctuary in Shanghai during World War II and the Holocaust. Commissioned by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, Rothstein photographed Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto in April 1946, seven months after the campaign in the Pacific had ended. It’s a moving and fascinating exhibit.

Spaces of Tolerance

On display through June 5, “Spaces of Tolerance” displays 12 site-specific installations by graduate students of FIU’s Department of Architecture exploring the theme of access to spirituality in a technocratic society. The exhibit also features a sonic installation by MONAD Studio’s Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg in collaboration with FIU assistant professor and composer Jacob Sudol.

Tennessee Williams – Playwright and Painter

Opening May 2 and running through October 7, “Tennessee Williams – Playwright and Painter,” will display nine paintings from the 1970s by the legendary playwright on loan from the private collection of Key West philanthropist David Wolkowsky, who was also a personal friend of Williams. The exhibition sheds light on the playwright’s connection to Key West and South Florida. He first visited Key West in 1947 and held a residence there for over three decades where he’d spend his days writing, painting and swimming. The exhibit offers a fascinating window into the man who wrote such classic American plays as A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie.

Embark on a Jewish Walking Tour of Miami

The Jewish Museum of Florida hosts Jewish Walking Tours departing from the museum on select Wednesdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. You’ll learn about the more than 100 years of Jewish history on Miami Beach, as well as important people and organizations, while also reviewing various architectural styles that include the contributions of Jews. There’s also a Jewish Walking Food Tour held once a month where you’ll learn the history of the surrounding SoFi neighborhood and sample traditional bites from Jewish-owned restaurants. During the month of May, walking tours will be held on May 9, 13, 20 and 27.

Explore Miami's History and Heritage

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