Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jewish Museum Honors Florida's Jews from Poland During Florida Jewish History Month

The Jewish Museum of Florida, 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

       This year's observance of Florida Jewish History Month, in conjunction with the Museum's current exhibit, "Wooden Synagogues of Poland and the Florida Connection," will honor the 80% of American Jews whose origins are from Poland.
       For the January 8 kick-off event, the Jewish Museum of Florida welcomes Floridian families with Polish roots, who will share their experiences in a panel discussion. Bring family and friends to join this FREE celebration. Walk-ins welcome or RSVP to 786-972-3175 or e-mail 
       Jews have lived in Poland for more than 1,000 years. Poland was the center of the European Jewish world before World War II, when the Holocaust resulted in the death of 90% (3 million) of the Polish Jews. By preserving the memories of families, such as those on this panel, the Museum is able to keep Jewish cultural heritage alive and transmit it to future generations. 
       At the January 8 kick-off event, the Museum will award cash prizes to the winners of its statewide student creative writing contest. The Museum challenged middle and high school students to connect to their own cultural heritage, by answering the following question: "How does a place tell a story that represents your cultural heritage?"
       As part of the celebration, Joe's Stone Crab restaurant is providing their famous key lime pie, designated in 2006 as Florida's official state pie. The founders of Joe's, Joe and Jennie Weiss, were the first Jews to settle on Miami Beach in 1913. Joe's is still owned and run by the family, and has been open since 1913.
       The concept for Florida Jewish History Month began at the Jewish Museum of Florida. Founding Executive Director Marcia Jo Zerivitz 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. Florida is the first state in the nation to have a month dedicated to the tremendous contributions of Jews in its state. 
       The success of Florida Jewish History Month inspired the legislation for Jewish American Heritage Month, also initiated by the Museum, and observed each May, with a Proclamation signed by President George Bush in April 2006. 

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Rachel Kosowski, 1938.
       The family of Rachel Kosowski (Abramowitz) settled in Kosov, Poland about 300 years ago. She was born in Yanov in 1928. The family's plan to immigrate to Palestine on September 7, 1939 was thwarted by the outbreak of World War II on September 1, when Germany invaded Poland. The family was arrested and sent to Siberia.
       In 1946, they were allowed to return to Poland to vote for the Communists; however, they found severe anti-semitism and government-sponsored pogroms there. An organization called Bricha (escape) had been formed to find and bring Polish Jews to Germany on their way to Palestine. Bricha rescued Rachel's family and sent them to a DP (displaced persons) Camp. Rachel met her husband there, U.S. Army Chaplain (1st Lieutenant) Mayer Abramowitz. The couple moved to Miami Beach in 1951.

Maria (2nd from left) and son, Allan
(3rd from left), with Russian
soldiers outside of Warsaw, 1946.
       The family of Allan Horowitz (Hall) from Krakow walked east to the Russian area in 1939, when the Germans overran the western part of Poland. In 1941, when the Germans came, the family went into hiding. After the war they were liberated.
       Father, Edmund, worked for the Polish government but was purged by the Soviets and sent to Siberia. He broke out of prison and fled to Paris with his wife, Maria. Edmund and Maria separated from their sons so that the Soviets could not use the children as hostages. The family eventually reunited and immigrated to the U.S. in 1947.   

Shomir Atzarim Zionist Organization,
Poland Hebrew School, Biala Podlaska,1939.
Alice Weinglas (2nd row, top, 1st from left)
with classmates. Only five of this
group survived the Holocaust. 
       Alice (Weinglas) Vinik was born in Biala Podlaska between the two world wars. In late 1939, when the Germans came, her family escaped to the Russian side. They were captured by Russian soldiers and forced to live and labor in the forest.
       Alice met her husband, Max Eiman from Bielsko, Poland. The family members were finally released and reunited in 1946 and returned to Poland. Due to the antisemitism and pogroms, they escaped and were smuggled across the borders.
       After time in Displaced Persons (DP) Camps in Austria and Germany, Alice came to America in 1949, and settled in Miami Beach in 1956.

Louis Schneider wearing
an "Acolyte" outfit, 1944.
       Louis Schneider's parents, Joseph and Debora, were born in Lipsko/Narol. His family was separated when his father was caught by French police in 1942. Louis' mother attempted to smuggle Louis and his sister into Switzerland, but they were caught at the border.
       While traversing northern Italy, their train was bombed by American planes and they were rescued from the wreckage by Italians. Louis spent the rest of the war hiding as "Luigi Sarto" in a Catholic monastery in Italy.
       The family miraculously reunited in 1946.


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       The Jewish Museum of Florida is housed in two adjacent lovingly restored historic buildings 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 the Present." Interesting history and art exhibits change periodically.
       Currently on display are: "Wooden Synagogues of Poland and the Florida Connection," through March 18, 2012 and "Rabbi Irving Lehrman: His Life & Art," through January 15, 2012. A Collections & Research Center, Timeline Wall of Jewish history, several films, Museum Store filled with unique items and Bessie's Bistro for snacks complete the experience for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
       Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, and is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, except Mondays, Civil and Jewish holidays. Admission: Adults-$6; Seniors-$5; Families-$12; Members and children under 6-Free; Saturdays-Free.
       For information please call 305-672-5044 or visit the website, 

The official logo for Florida Jewish History
Month, created by one of Miami's most
famous artists/residents, Romero Britto.

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