News: FIU and Jewish Museum Create Historic Partnership

By Sissi Aguila

The Jewish Museum of Florida, has become part of the FIU family through a gift that will create a unique partnership. The Museum will now be known as the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU (JMOF-FIU).

FIU’s Board of Trustees voted June 29 to approve the gift, which will leverage the resources of both institutions, igniting a new era of interdisciplinary education, research and outreach focused on the history of the Jewish experience in Florida, the unique ways in which Florida Jews influence and are influenced by the historic and cultural dynamics of Florida, the nation, and the world, and issues of discrimination against all peoples in Florida over history.

Authorization to use JMOF-FIU as a special purpose center is still pending approval by the Florida Board of Governors.

This hallmark gift includes the two adjacent Art Deco buildings that are former synagogues, located at 301 Washington Ave. on Miami Beach. The buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The gift also includes The Museum’s historical collections, research library, endowment, and other assets. FIU will continue The Museum’s operations and will utilize the facilities and collection to implement an academic plan consistent with the JMOF’s and FIU’s shared educational, research and outreach mission.

“There’s an immense richness of research housed within the Museum that explores 250 years of Jewish art, culture and history,” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg. “Through this generous gift, FIU will expand our reach into the South Florida community, helping to preserve an important part of our history while enhancing the global learning experience we offer our students.”

A key component of the academic plan for the JMOF-FIU is the relocation of a variety of programs, including the Judaic Studies Program, to The Museum’s facilities. The plan also includes the expansion of academic programs and research endeavors designed to educate FIU students, faculty, and the greater South Florida community about the challenges of the immigrant experiences shared by all ethnicities in the state of Florida.

“This step launches us into our next phase of growth, by strengthening awareness of our institution and its mission, broadening our academic offerings and increasing scholarly research of our collections,” said Jo Ann Arnowitz, executive director and chief curator of The Museum. “Our synergy and mutual commitment to exploring the richness and diversity of Jewish life in Florida makes this a perfect match.”

Through exhibitions, public programs, historical collections and publications, the JMOF has provided multicultural education for nearly two decades. Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the JMOF is internationally recognized for its cultural, art and history exhibits.

“The addition of the Museum is a perfect complement to the work being done in our School of International and Public Affairs,” said FIU College of Arts & Sciences Dean Kenneth G. Furton. “Combining our expertise in the social sciences as well as the humanities, we’re creating deeper conversations about history, culture, religion, literature, political science and international relations. The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU will help us broaden the conversation in all of these areas.”

The Museum’s exhibits and archival materials offer opportunities to enhance FIU’s Judaic Studies and Sephardic Studies programs, as well as a variety of classes offered throughout the School of International and Public Affairs. Engagement initiatives with local schools, museums and other community organizations will remain a focus for the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.

“This milestone in the history of FIU is a testament to our university-wide commitment to community engagement as an anchor public institution. Empowered by this philanthropic partnership, we look forward to fostering awareness and tolerance while realizing the 21st century vision of The Museum,” said Howard R. Lipman, senior vice president of University Advancement and president and CEO of The FIU Foundation, Inc.

The Museum, which opened in 1995, began as a traveling exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida, a statewide project supported with grant funding from the State of Florida and various local agencies. In the mid-1980s, Marcia Jo Zerivitz organized hundreds of volunteers that amassed thousands of photographs, artifacts and oral histories.

“This collection has grown geometrically and documents the significant contributions that Jews have made to every area of development of our state since at least 1763,” said Zerivitz, founding executive director of the Jewish Museum of Florida.

It was under Zerivitz’s direction that the MOSAIC project evolved into the Jewish Museum of Florida. As part of the strategic plan, and with the support from the Board of Directors, she initiated a search for an academic partner to expand the impact and outreach of an important part of history that had been unknown.

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