Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish: A Gastronomic Look at Florida Jews & Food

October 15, 2013 - October 5, 2014

Jews in the Sunshine State are better known for serving up delicious corned beef on rye than for their work in the fields. However Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU guests may be surprised to learn that Florida is home to the “King of Citrus,” groves three times the size of Manhattan and even sixth generation dairy farmers, all businesses owned and operated by Jews. Growers, Grocers & Gefilte Fish: A Gastronomic Look at Florida Jews in Food spans nearly 200 years of history, with artifacts, figures and photographs that will feed your memories and tempt your taste buds, including produce growers, "ma and pa" grocers, gefilte fish distributors, butchers, bakers and world renowned chefs.

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“This exhibit has been a long time coming,” said Executive Director Jo Ann Arnowitz. “We’ve always known that we wanted to have an exhibit on food, but there’s so much material, we could have filled three museums just on this subject! What we have now is a sampling of the growers, farmers, distributors, supermarkets, restaurateurs, chefs, bakers and others who’ve contributed to the foods and memories we recall when we think of eating either at home or at a restaurant in Florida. We also included a few of the well known ‘foodies’ today, like Michael Schwartz and Michelle Bernstein, who continue to redefine the industry both here at home and on a national scale.”

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Select highlights include photographs and artifacts from the following Jewish businesses or individuals:

  • Hi-Grade Food Company (Miami): Started in 1945 by Al and Sylvia Berman. In 1960, after the death of her husband, Sylvia partnered with her son-in-law Morris Levitt and together they grew their business substantially. By 1990, when Morris Levitt retired from Hi-Grade, they were the largest distributor of kosher foods in Florida.
  • Dr. Philip Phillips (Orlando): Named the “King of Citrus,” Phillips was the world’s largest citrus producer in the early 1900s. Phillips developed the revolutionary process of flash-pasteurizing, enabling him to can juice without altering the taste. The American Medical Association even endorsed his orange juice label that read, “Drink Dr. Phillips Orange Juice because the Doc says it’s good for you!”
  • Joshua Groves (Arcadia): This grove was planted with 3 million orange trees, three times the size of Manhattan! It was a distinguishing landmark for astronauts who took aerial photos of it on the first manned satellite in orbit.
  • Sheldon’s Drugstore (Surfside): With 18 retail drug stores, Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer was having breakfast at the Surfside location when he learned he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.
  • Davie Dairy (Okeechobee): A sixth generation dairy business with 960 acres and two milking facilities that produces 15,000 gallons of milk daily! Today, Davie Dairy is home to over 4,500 cows.
  • Restaurant Chains:
    • Royal Castle: William Singer opened the chain in 1930s and by the time the company sold in 1969, it had 175 restaurants
    • Burger King: Started by Ben Stein of Jacksonville in 1955
    • Pollo Tropical: Established in 1988 by Larry & Stuart Harris of Miami
  • Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant (Miami Beach): An iconic restaurant now in its 100th year, still owned and operated by the family of Joe & Jennie Weiss, the first Jews to settle on Miami Beach.
  • Meyer Fish & Produce (Jacksonville): Seafood company, who in 1929, created the new process of quick freezing and cold storage of shrimp. The shrimp was frozen in ready-to-eat packages for the consumer, which were marketed throughout the U.S. under the “Sel-ect-ed” label.
  • South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Miami Beach): Originally a one-day festival, Lee Schrager took over in 2002 and produced a four-day event that has become a national destination to over 65,000 guests. The show is known for showcasing the world’s most renowned chefs and culinary personalities.

Growers, Grocers and Gefilte Fish is comprised of more than 400 photographs and 60 objects, and includes over 250 Florida Jewish families and companies.

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The exhibit has also inspired a variety of public programs, including cooking demonstrations, a walking food tour, films, a creative writing contest for students and many more exciting and interactive activities. Please visit our calendar page for a complete and up-to-date list of programs.

Exhibition supporters include Publix Super Markets Charities; Southern Wine & Sprits; Dolly Harris & Family in memory of Ernest E. Harris; Mardi & Ron Shader; Dottie Jacobs in memory of Marvin “Buddy” Jacobs; Harriet Singer in memory of Lawrence Singer; Isabel Bernfeld Anderson IMO Leon & Anita Bernfeld; Al & Sandee Burger; David Posnack Foundation; Robert Arthur Segall Family Foundation Inc.; Kenneth Bloom in memory of Harold & Ilse Posner.

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