Jewish American Heritage Month Kicks Off May 5 at Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

2013 Theme is American Jews in Entertainment

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU), the only museum dedicated to the story of 250 years of Florida Jewish heritage, arts and culture, is proud to announce May is Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), a national commemoration of the contributions that American Jews have made to the fabric of the nation’s history, culture and society. The 2013 observance will be held at the Museum at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5.

JAHM was initiated by JMOF-FIU and enacted by the 109th Congress. This year’s national theme focuses on American Jews in Entertainment. An enlightening presentation by Professor Stephen Whitfield of Brandeis University and Marcia Jo Zerivitz, founding executive director of the Jewish Museum of Florida, will explore how two percent of the population has had such a huge impact upon the nation's popular culture.

Immigrant Jewish entrepreneurs and their sons, like Sam Goldwyn, Jack and Harry Warner, Louis B. Mayer, were integral to the creation of Hollywood. Jews were once the heads simultaneously of the three major American television networks: William Paley at CBS, David Sarnoff at NBC and Leonard Goldenson at ABC. Jews have been writers, directors, producers, composers and performers, even clowns in the entertainment industry.

“The arrival of over two million Jews from Eastern Europe a century ago coincided with the emergence of mass entertainment in the United States,” said Dr. Whitfield. “This was not entirely a coincidence, as the energies and dynamism of the newcomers and their children were unleashed in the popular arts because so few barriers to entry existed, and because a novel path of upward mobility became available. The result was a fresh way of forging the national identity and a vehicle for making a diverse society more unified.”

Whitfield’s lecture will describe how this combination played itself out in the birth of the Hollywood studios and in the contribution of Jews to the treasury of American humor.

Dr. Whitfield holds the Max Richter Chair in American Civilization at Brandeis University, where he has taught since 1972. A native of Houston who grew up in Jacksonville, he earned a B.A. from Tulane, a master's degree from Yale and a doctorate in American history from Brandeis. He has served as visiting professor of many prominent universities and is the author of eight books, including, most recently, In Search of American Jewish Culture, and numerous scholarly articles.

The free program is co-sponsored by the JMOF-FIU, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Jewish Federation of Broward County, Community Relations Committee.

For more information on JAHM and the national 2013 observance, please visit

About the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU: The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is the only Museum dedicated to telling the story of 250 years of Florida Jewish heritage, arts and culture. The museum is housed in two adjacent lovingly restored historic buildings, at 301 Washington Avenue on South Beach, that were once synagogues for Miami Beach's first Jewish congregation. The museum's focal point is its core exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, 1763 to Present and its temporary history and art exhibits that change periodically. Now on display: PROJECT MAH JONGG through March 17, 2013 and MIAMI MOSAIC: Portraits by Inez Hollander. A Collections and Research Center, several films, Timeline Wall of Jewish history, museum Store filled with unique items and Bessie's Bistro complete the experience for visitors of all ages and backgrounds. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

For more information: 305-672-5044 or or visit us on Facebook @JewishMuseumofFlorida.