WOLFSONIAN-FIU VISIT TO THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU
Even as the City of Miami Beach prepares for its centennial celebrations this March, two of South Beach’s cultural institutions, The Wolfsonian-FIU and The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU are poised to celebrate their twenty year anniversaries as public institutions. And so it is only fitting that Michel Potop, working with The Wolfsonian-FIU’s “Culture Club” committee, recently organized a tour for our own staff of the exhibitions at the Jewish Museum located a few blocks down Washington Avenue. Here is his report:
This past Wednesday, several of my coworkers from the Wolfsonian-Florida International University joined me on a visit to the Jewish Museum of Florida–FIU. This group visit would not have been successful without the generous hospitality of our Florida International University colleagues from the Jewish Museum, particularly Ms. Eva Shvedova with whom I worked to organize this visit.
The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is located in what was once the first Temple of Miami Beach, which opened its doors in 1936 to serve the congregation of Beth Jacob. The architect Henry Hohauser was responsible for the temple’s Art Deco style, while the first rabbi designed the seventy-seven stained glass windows.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FIUNEWS
Visitors can admire the original Art deco chandeliers and Moorish dome.
While it is always a pleasure to be able to explore the exhibitions, our appreciation of the collections was enhanced by the addition of cultural and historical anecdotes presented to us by the education manager, Mr. Chaim Lieberperson.
MARBLE BIMAH / PHOTO COURTESY OF FIUNEWS
The Bimah is a raised platform where the Rabbi and the reader pray, and where the Arch and its Torah are placed. In this picture one can clearly see that the Temple is no longer used for prayer as there is no sign of Ner Tamid, or the sanctuary lamp that would have radiated its light from the eternal flame on the altar.
The main exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, retraces the history of the Jew who settled in Florida from the colonial era to modern days. Work on this venture began in 1984, and after its inauguration in 1990, the exhibition traveled to venues in various state and national galleries for five years before finding a permanent home for the collection in Miami Beach.
MOSAIC: PANEL ON SEPHARDIC AND RUSSIAN IMMIGRATION / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU
MOSAIC: SHABBAT PANEL & CASE / PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA-FIU
MOSAIC: SHELL DRESS
MOSAIC: MISS FLORIDA
MOSAIC: MAP OF FLORIDA
MOSAIC: FIRST JEWISH CHILD BORN IN FLORIDA & POCKET-WATCH
The staff also had the opportunity to see The Chosen: Selected Works from Florida Jewish Art Collectors. This temporary exhibit curated by Bernice Steinbaum displays some of the treasures ordinarily found only in private homes and collections.
Both The Wolfsonian and The Jewish Museum of Florida opened their doors to the public in 1995, and both have subsequently become integrated into Florida International University. Both institutions aim to preserve, study, and promote rare collections of history and culture.
The grandparents of Mitchell Wolfson Jr., the founder of The Wolfsonian, left Tsarist Russia in the 19th century and ultimately settled in Key West, Florida. In 1943, Mitchell Wolfson, Sr. became the first in a long list of Jewish mayors who shaped the political and cultural life of Miami Beach. The Wolfson family also invested in pioneering cinematic and television entertainment with the creation of Wometco Enterprises.
The intimate links between The Wolfsonian FIU, The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU and Miami Beach, are not represented only by Mr. Wolfson’s generous donations but also by the interdependence of our collections.
The Wolfsonian, for example, holds a small archive of materials documenting the architectural achievements of Henry Hohauser, the celebrated architect of the temple that now houses the Jewish Museum.
DETAIL OF TEMPLE WINDOW AND FACADE DECORATION
As the Miami Beach gears up for her hundredth year celebrations, and two of the city’s cultural institutions prepare for their twenty-year anniversaries, we invite the public to come visit us to discover more about the art, culture and history of South Florida.