Champions of local Jewish History


SWFL Jewish Pioneers - The Labodas of Fort Myers

SWFL Jewish Pioneers – The Labodas of Fort Myers

The Labodas are a unique family in many different ways.

They relocated to SWFL, the Deep South, in 1965, at the tail end of segregation, and raised four children in Fort Myers. All their children returned to SWFL after they completed their studies.

Dr. Gerald was the first Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon between Sarasota and Miami. The Labodas opened up a practice and worked together, with Sheila investing much of her free time in the growth and strengthening of a tiny Jewish community and formation of its Federation, and Jerry serving on many important boards in town and county.

There were only a small number of Jews residing in SWFL at the time of their arrival. The Labodas became prominently visible because of their varied interests and brought their charm and fortitude out to build ever important ties between the emerging Jewish community and its Christian neighborhood.

Jerry’s parents followed their only son to the relative wilderness of SWFL, as compared to their native, ultra urban Philadelphia. The Laboda family was a rare one, with all three generations domiciling in the same town. Most Floridian newcomers left someone up North, and experienced that nostalgic longing that stood in the way of successful assimilation.

The Labodas introduced Lee and Collier county Jewish and non-Jewish communities to such integral parts of the Jewish experience as Hadassah and education in Israel. Don’s miss the scene where Sheila reminisces about her mother-in-law and her Hadassah chapter co-founder making sure everyone had a Chai pendant and try to recognize the celebrities in the photos of the fundraising events they hosted right here, in SWFL.

Dr. Gerald Laboda’s special passion is being a historian and he is a local authority on several fascinating and rarely spoken about subjects.

Join us on Sunday, February 14, 2021 – Valentine’s Day – and you will discover what significance this date has to the city of Fort Myers, Florida and why.