Founding Executive Director

Marcia Jo Zerivitz

ImageMarcia Jo Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida, is a native West Virginian where she began her organizational involvement as a fundraiser in the fifth grade. She has been a leader in the Florida community for more than 50 years and specifically with Florida Jewish history for the past 30 years. In May 2016, Zerivitz was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree from Florida International University.

Traveling 250,000 miles throughout Florida (1984-1992), before Google and Wikipedia and common use of cell phones and digital cameras, Zerivitz organized and trained hundreds of volunteers to conduct the original research to retrieve the state’s hidden 250+ year Jewish history and was part of the team that developed the MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida traveling exhibit (1990-1994).

Zerivitz led the evolution of that project to open JMOF in 1995, managing the restoration of two former synagogues on the National Register of Historic Places and creating the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Accredited institution by strategic planning, recruiting and training staff and volunteers and raising the funds to support it. JMOF collects, preserves and interprets the Jewish experience in Florida in the context of global Jewish history, art and culture that also reflects the immigration experience of all Americans. This is perhaps the first museum in the U.S. to document the history of one ethnic group in a state.

In 16 years, Zerivitz initiated many research projects, curated the MOSAIC core exhibit from her original research, and presented 70 temporary exhibits with 500 educational programs. Dozens of these exhibits traveled around the state and nation and even to Israel.

The Collection at JMOF-FIU continues to grow daily, each archival item digitized and designated with a theme on a computer database that she created in 1985 and made all entries for ten years. JMOF was AAM accredited with this database.

For the Museum, Zerivitz led the fundraising for $36 million including a $3 million endowment fund. Of this, $7.5 million was in public grants.

Marcia Jo Zerivitz initiated legislations for both Florida Jewish History Month (January) and Jewish American Heritage Month (May) to increase awareness of the contributions by Jews to the state and nation. She instigated the affiliation of JMOF with Florida International University that was finalized in 2012 to create JMOF-FIU. Zerivitz retired from JMOF in 2011.

During her career, she has recruited, trained, managed, and motivated more than 12,000 volunteers, and overseen the planning, budgeting, management, and fundraising of $100 million.

Zerivitz’s work – the history and the process - has been innovative and a role model to others. Her path to documenting the Jewish experience in Florida included volunteer leadership positions in national, state and local civic and cultural organizations, as well as Hadassah, ORT, AIPAC, Israel Bonds, first UJA National Women’s Young Leadership Cabinet, President of Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando (JFGO) and leading educational missions to Israel.

When she transitioned to the professional world in 1980, early tasks were as associate director of JFGO, capital campaign director for JFGO, and fundraiser for Hadassah’s Camp Judaea and Pinellas County Jewish Day School. Marcia Jo Zerivitz has broken the “glass ceiling” as the first woman in many positions.

She wrote (with co-author Rachel Heimovics) Florida Jewish Heritage Trail, published by Florida Department of State. Zerivitz authored all of the Florida entries for the Encyclopedia Judaica and her scholarship has been used in films, historical journals and books; she has been published internationally. She wrote the photo-documentaries Jews of Greater Miami and Jews of Tampa for Arcadia Publishing and also was the editor/writer for 96 issues of JMOF’s quarterly membership newsletter, TILES. Zerivitz was the main on-camera narrator for the 2014 PBS documentary, A Call to Serve: Florida Jews in the U.S. Military, based on an exhibit produced at JMOF (2010).

She and the Museum have earned many awards. Currently, Zerivitz lectures on many topics related to Florida and American Jewish history and discrimination, consults in the field, curates exhibitions and conducts workshops on fundraising, archival collections and non-profit governance. She resides on St. Pete Beach. FL with her husband, Elliott, whom she credits as her partner in her journey to document and preserve collective historic memory, expand knowledge, and cultivate diversity.


University of Michigan, 1957-58

West Virginia University, BA, 1961

Graduate program in Dietetics, Medical College of Virginia, 1962

Program for Advancement in Communal Service, Brandeis University, 1981

Selected Positions and Honors:

Doctor of Humane Letters Honorary Degree, FIU, 2016

Hadassah’s Myrtle Wreath Award, 2014

Board, Jewish American Heritage Month, 2006-present

MAP Peer Reviewer for American Alliance of Museums (AAM), 2003-present

Lifetime Achievement Award, Florida Association of Museums, 2011

Lifetime Achieving Award, Jewish Museum of Florida, 2011

Woman of the Year from Greater Miami Women’s Auxiliary of Douglas Gardens, 2007

Excellence in Arts Management Award, May 2005 by Arts & Business Council of Miami

Board member and Treasurer of Council of American Jewish Museums, 2002-2005

Board member of Florida Association of Museums, 2001-2005

Leader of Women of Distinction Award from Miami Hebrew Home for the Aged, Nov. 2001

Miami Metro, one of the “100 Women to Watch,” May 2000

Outstanding New Professional Award, Florida Association of Museums, 1998

Co-Chair, Annual Conference, Council of American Jewish Museums, Jan. 1997

Chair, Annual Conference, Southern Jewish Historical Society, Oct. 1996

History Education Award, American Association of State and Local Histories, 1993

Florida Historical Society Education Award, 1992

United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Award, 1976

State of Israel Bonds David Ben Gurion Award for Community Leadership, 1975

United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Cabinet (First), 1974

ORT National and Regional Boards, 1970s

AIPAC National Council, 1970s

Some speaking venues:

Jewish Museum of Florida – FIU

American Library Association National Conference

Jewish National Fund National Convention

Jewish Funeral Directors & Chevra Kadisha National Convention

University of Florida

University of Central Florida

Florida Atlantic University

Florida International University

University of Miami

Eckerd College

Longboat Key Education Center (annually)

Collier County Library

Elderhostel/Road Scholar Programs (many)

Historical Museum of Southern Florida

Tampa Bay History Center

Jacksonville Historical Society

Florida Holocaust Museum

Miami Beach Historical Society

Florida Association of Museums

Council of American Jewish Museums

Southern Jewish Historical Society

Israel Bonds

Greater Miami Jewish Federation

Sarasota Jewish Federation

Tampa Jewish Federation

Broward Jewish Federation

Fort Lauderdale Jewish Community Center

Miami Jewish Community Center

Sarasota Jewish Community Center

Orlando Jewish Community Center

Jacksonville Jewish Community Center

Miami Jewish Home for the Aged

Dozens more Organizations and Congregations around the state