FJHM Educator Resource

January is Florida Jewish History Month. The Jewish Museum of Florida initiated the legislation for this month to honor the indelible imprint of Floridian Jews on our State’s history. Florida’s greatest asset is its people. Diverse cultures have enriched the State since early times. It is a common belief that Florida Jewish History began after World War II, when it actually begins much earlier. Jews have actively participated in shaping the destiny of Florida since they were first allowed to settle in 1763.

The concept for Florida Jewish History Month began with the Museum’s Founding Executive Director, Marcia Jo Zerivitz, who worked closely with legislators to translate the Museum’s mission into a statewide observance. In April 2003, Governor Jeb Bush signed a bill into that officially designated the month of January as Florida Jewish History Month. Sen. Gwen Margolis and Rep. Gustavo Barreiro each sponsored companion bills that were passed unanimously and eventually led to this historic event. Florida is the first state in our nation to have a month dedicated to the tremendous contributions of Jews in our state.

The success of Florida Jewish History Month inspired the legislation for Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), also initiated by the Museum, and observed each May, with a Proclamation signed by President George Bush, April 2006. Florida Jewish History Month is a time to learn how Jews have been involved in enriching the lives and dreams of all Floridians.

As you plan for Florida Jewish History Month, here are some facts to get you started:

• A Jew, David Levy Yulee, is known as the “architect” of Florida Statehood.

• His father, Moses Levy, among the earliest and largest developers in Florida, published a plan to abolish slavery and was a proponent of free education in Florida.

• More than 100 Jewish families have lived in Florida for over 100 years.

• Floridian Jews have served in all the wars. Fort Myers is named for Col. Abraham Myers.

• For nearly 250 years, Jews have lived in Florida, maintained traditions of their heritage and contributed to our State in every sector.

JMOF-FIU can provide you with educational materials to complement your existing curriculum, with the stories and history of one of Florida’s most influential ethnic groups. They include:

• Florida Jewish History fact and theme webs;

• Timeline of Florida Jewish history;

• Lesson guide of important Florida Jewish History time periods and personalities; and a Jewish Museum of Florida school field experience form.

The mission of our Museum is to collect, preserve and interpret the material evidence of the Florida Jewish experience. We examine how Jews form a part of a dynamic mosaic of ethnic groups, all seeking to balance the continuity and traditions of their heritage with the values and customs of a larger society. Florida’s Jews have brought their visions of freedom and their creativity and have left their footprints across the entire State. We are your resource in the community. Please feel free to contact us at 786-972-3187 if you have any questions about Florida Jewish History, the integration of our curriculum materials or to arrange your student group tour.