Heritage Trails

Jewish Heritage Trail Publication

Florida Jewish Heritage Trail

Florida Jewish Heritage Trail

Sanford L. Ziff Jewish Museum of Florida
Sanford L. Ziff JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA

The rich legacy of the Jewish community in Florida can be found in every region of the state. As a people, Jews have contributed dramatically to Florida's economy, culture government and by creating institutions that allowed their heritage to flourish and their identity to strengthen.

Although there is a perception that Jews did not arrive in Florida until after World War II, Jewish history in Florida actually can be traced to 1763 with the arrival of Alexander Solomons, Joseph de Palacios and Samuel Israel in Pensacola. In the 1800s, many Jewish families emigrated to Florida from northern states and foreign countries to settle both inland and along the coast. Today, South Florida is home to the second largest concentration of Jews in the world. Miami-Dade County has the nation's third largest Jewish community, estimated in 1990 at 800,000.

Temple Israel of Greater Miami
Temple Israel of Greater Miami

The Jewish experience in Florida has been rich in achievements and successes. Jews have prospered and left legacies that will forever help to define the character of Florida. However, these outstanding achievements and contributions to Florida have a dark side - one of prejudice and discrimination. In early Spanish Florida, Jews and other non-Catholics were prohibited from legally settling in Florida and practicing their religion. Following England's acquisition of Florida in 1763, Jews were free to settle legally in Florida. However, persecution and prejudice still made their lives difficult and limited their choices in employment and settlement opportunities. When Florida became an American territory in 1821, more Jews were free to move to Florida. Here, America's tolerance of religious diversity made the state attractive to those persecuted in other lands.

Henry Brash House, Apalachicola
Henry Brash House, Apalachicola

As Jews settled in Florida, they formed organizations that met the educational, social, health, and recreational needs of their communities from cradle to grave. Some of the early organizations were created to help immigrants become settled. For example, the first chapter of B'nai B'rith, a national organization that works to educate its members and support Jewish causes, was founded in 1874 in Pensacola.

The first organization formed by a Jewish community is often a chevra kadisha, literally a holy society, whose purpose is to prepare bodies for Jewish burial. Until Jewish cemeteries were established in Florida, such organizations shipped remains out of state for ritual burial. It was inevitable that as the Jewish population grew, the local community would create a nearby Jewish cemetery.

Florida Jewish Heritage Trail retraces the steps of Florida's Jewish pioneers from colonial times through the present. You are invited to visit the historical sites that reflect the Jewish experience in Florida. Good luck on the Trail. Shalom aleichem! Peace be with you!

Holocaust Memorial, Miami Beach
Holocaust Memorial, Miami Beach
Cover of Florida Jewish Heritage Trail

Published by the Florida Department of State,
Division of Historical Resources.
ISBN ISBN #1-889030-20-1.