The kick-off for the 2011 observance of Jewish American Heritage Month will be Sunday, May 15 at 2 pm at the Jewish Museum of Florida. RSVP for this free event by calling 305-672-5044, ext. 3175 or email Walk-ins are welcome.


The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Broward County are co-sponsoring this program with the Jewish Museum of Florida.



Initiated by the Jewish Museum of Florida, with the effort led by Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, President George Bush signed a resolution in 2006 that each May would be Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). Like other group's months, JAHM is the time to celebrate the contributions of American Jews to the fabric of our nation's lives. America has been both a haven and a home to Jews. Many arrived as immigrants seeking escape from persecution, and in finding freedom, tolerance and opportunities here, have given back in all areas to enrich our national culture.



The theme is Justice. "Justice, justice shalt thou pursue" is a strand that ties together all Jews in the law. To honor the service of Jews who have devoted their professional lives to the public to sustain the rule of law, the Museum has planned an interesting panel discussion, followed by a conversation with the audience.


Former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Gerald Kogan, will moderate. Participants include former Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, Arthur England; (Ret) Assistant Director Miami-Dade Police Dept. and a founder of the Shomrim Society, Irving "Red" Heller; Dept. of Justice, Southern District of Florida, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Karen Gilbert; U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol; and Broward County Judge Jane D. Fishman.


In the U.S., law became a bulwark against the kinds of oppression Jews had endured in many lands for countless generations. The rule of law has allowed Jews and all minorities to help shape our national and state history. Law remains an avenue of social mobility in our society and the best of our Jewish lawyers and judges have worked to secure justice for others.


Eight Jews have served on the Supreme Court of the US. Louis Brandeis (1916) was the first - although Judah P. Benjamin rejected the offer in 1853 when he chose to retain his Senate seat. Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Arthur J. Goldberg, who once said that his concern for justice stems from his heritage, and Abe Fortas served in the past. In 1993 as the107th Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "I am proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition." In 1994, Stephen G. Breyer joined the Court. And most recently, Elena Kagan became the third Jew to serve currently on the U.S. Supreme Court.


Perhaps you know that at least 270 Jews have served as judges in Florida.The Museum keeps scrapbooks about Floridian Jews who have served in public office. One set is for Judges. The earliest known Jewish judge in Florida was Gus Cohen in Pensacola from 1884-1914, who was a federal judge. Cohen settled there before the Civil War and was the grandfather of Frances Cohen who married Mitchell Wolfson in Miami in 1926. The earliest known Circuit Court Judge was Harry Sandler in Tampa 1935-1964.While in the Legislature (1932-35), he sponsored the Homestead Exemption Amendment. AO Kanner served as 1st chief judge of the 2nd Court of Appeal in 1957; there is a highway named for him in Martin County.


Florida has had four Jewish Chief Judges of the Supreme Court: Arthur England of Miami (1978-80); Ray Ehrlich of Jacksonville (1988-90); Gerald Kogan of Miami (1996-98); and Barbara Pariente (2004-06), who is currently serving on the court.


Retrieving this type of information and having it available for the public, for research, publications, films, exhibitions and for future generations is what the Jewish Museum of Florida does.



The Jewish Museum of Florida on South Beach is housed in two adjacent lovingly restored historic buildings that were once synagogues for Miami Beach's first Jewish congregation. The focal point of the Museum is its core exhibit MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida 1763 to the Present and temporary Jewish history and art exhibits that change periodically. Current exhibits are Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited through August 14 and Auktion 392: Restitution of Nazi-looted Art through April 25. Isaac Bashevis Singer & His Artists opens May 3. A Collections & Research Center, several films, Timeline Wall of Jewish history, Museum Store and Bessie's Bistro 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, South Beach and is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Mondays and Civil and Jewish holidays. Admission: Adults/$6; Seniors/$5; Families/$12; Members and children under 6/Always Free; Saturdays/Free. For information:  305-672-5044 or