Shortly before COVID19 descended upon us, The Society had a wonderful educational event at the Naples Daily News building when Florida's most prominent Jewish Historian, Marcia Jo Zerovitz presented Jews in Florida, a presentation and a book, the materials for which she collected for decades. Marcia Jo is a repository of stories and facts, the likes of which you will not hear anywhere else. She made Florida's Jewish History her quest and she is, as her daughter confirmed to us that afternoon, a driven passionate historian.
"Marcia Jo Zerivitz, L.H.D. is the Founding Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU and has lived in Florida for more than half a century. Marcia Jo observed early on that the Jewish community in Florida had a major challenge—its continuity. She committed to focus on collecting and preserving, for future generations, the stories and material evidence of the adherence to traditions and contributions of Jews to the development of the Sunshine State—to find “roots” for Florida’s Jews. From 1984 to 1992, she traveled 250,000 miles throughout Florida, recruiting volunteers to conduct grassroots research and retrieve the state’s hidden, 250+ year Jewish history. As part of the MOSAIC team, she raised the funds, created a Collections database and helped develop the storyline for the MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida exhibit that traveled to 13 cities (1990–94). For each local community, she created exhibits and educational materials. In 1995, under her direction, this project evolved into the Jewish Museum of Florida (JMOF), now housed in two adjacent restored former synagogues, on the National Register of Historic Places. JMOF collects, preserves, and interprets the Jewish experience in Florida in the context of American and world Jewish history, art and culture and also to reflect the immigration experience of all Americans. Marcia Jo Zerivitz initiated the legislation for both a Florida Jewish History Month (FJHM) each January and a Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) each May to increase awareness of the contributions by Jews to the state and nation and she serves on the JAHM board." "Marcia Jo’s book Jews of Florida: Centuries of Stories was released in 2020. This first comprehensive history of the Jews of Florida from colonial times to the present is a sweeping tapestry of voices spanning centuries. Despite not being officially allowed to live in Florida until 1763, Jewish immigrants escaping expulsions and exclusions were among the earliest settlers. They have been integral to every area of Florida’s growth, from tilling the land and developing early communities to boosting tourism and ultimately pushing mankind into space. The Sunshine State’s Jews, working for the common good, have been Olympians, Nobel Prize winners, computer pioneers, educators, politicians, leaders in business and the arts and more, while maintaining their heritage to help ensure Jewish continuity for future generations. This rich narrative—accompanied by 716 images, most rarely seen—is the result of three-plus decades of grassroots research by author Marcia Jo Zerivitz, giving readers an incomparable look at the long and crucial history of Jews in Florida. She resides on St. Pete Beach with her husband Elliott whom she credits as her partner on this journey. As a cultural anthropologist, she is credited with an innovative process that gave the world something they did not have: the compelling story of one ethnic group in a hugely diverse Florida."
We were very lucky to record her presentation and to bring it to you again, January 1 at 7 p.m. on ZOOM. Please register and get your ticket at Upcoming Events on jhsswf.org.
NB: Quotes are from Marcia Jo's biography at FIU. The book is available on Amazon.