Marcia Jo Zerivitz

Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director, Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, has been a leader in the American and Floridian Jewish communities for more than 50 years with a specific focus on museums and Florida Jewish history for the past 26 years.

Beginning in 1985, Marcia traveled around Florida to research and retrieve the state’s unknown Jewish history, created a collection and a storyline of Jewish life in Florida and helped develop the MOSAIC exhibit that traveled to 13 cities (1990-1994). She created exhibits and educational materials on the local Jewish history for many Florida Jewish communities and currently writes books on those communities.

In 1995, under her direction, this project evolved into the Jewish Museum of Florida (JMOF), now housed in two adjacent restored former synagogues, on the National Register of Historic Places. JMOF collects, preserves and interprets 250 years of the Jewish experience in Florida in the context of American and world Jewish history, art and culture and also to reflect the immigration experience of all Americans. In 16 years, Marcia wrote and presented more than 60 exhibits with educational and cultural programs, and led the Museum to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), an honor earned by less than 5% of the nation’s museums. She retired from JMOF in 2011 and currently serves as a peer reviewer for AAM.

In 2009, as part of the Museum’s strategic plan, Marcia began a search for an academic partner to help ensure the long-term impact and outreach of the mission of the JMOF. In 2012, the partnership with Florida International University was finalized, resulting in JMOF-FIU.

Marcia gives PowerPoint lectures on topics related to discrimination and Jewish history and consults and conducts workshops for non-profits on strategic planning, collections, exhibitions, non-profit governance and management, adaptive reuse of historic structures and fundraising.

She initiated the legislation for both a Florida Jewish History Month (FJHM) each January and a Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) each May to increase awareness of the contributions by Jews to the state and nation and she serves on the Board for JAHM.

Marcia wrote (with co-author) Florida Jewish Heritage Trail, published by Florida Dept. of State (250 sites in 44 cities with Jewish historical significance). Marcia authored Jews of Greater Miami and Jews of Tampa (Arcadia Publishing) and all of the Florida entries for Encyclopedia Judaica. Her scholarship has been used in films, historical journals and books, including by Brandeis University Press. She has been published nationally and internationally.

Contact Information: Phone 727-363-7030 or cell 305-761-5193; [email protected]
Speaker, museum, exhibit, and documentary film consultant
Honoraria plus expenses

American Jews in Entertainment. Especially appropriate for Jewish American Heritage Month (May), this enlightening 60-minute narrative with photographs (PowerPoint) presents highlights of a large topic in the 20th century where Jews have contributed in far greater proportion than their numbers would suggest. From the Yiddish Theater and nickelodeons to Hollywood, radio, TV and Broadway, the list of Jewish names is staggering and demonstrates how Jews came as immigrants and became Americans while entertaining America.

• Chronicle of Florida’s Jews. This 90-minute narrative with photographs (PowerPoint) is an exhilarating and surprising overview of the history of Jews in Florida. Prior to Zerivitz’s research that began in the mid-1980s, this story was unknown. For Florida’s first 250 years, only Catholics could settle, as it was owned by Spain since discovery in 1513. While Florida hosts the nation's third largest Jewish community, it is perceived to have a “new” Florida Jewish history starting after World War II. In reality, Jews have been allowed to live in Florida since 1763 (and possibly were there as Conversos since the 16th century) and have contributed greatly to the development of the state. David Levy Yulee brought Florida into statehood (1845) and served as its first U.S. senator (and the first person of Jewish ancestry to serve in the U.S. Congress). You will “meet” Jews who have made their mark in history and understand the themes and involvement for the past 250 years.

• Can I See the Horns: History of 2000 Years of Antisemitism Through Art. Hatred is perhaps the oldest of human emotions. Hatred against Jews is the most persistent, pervasive and pernicious of all hatreds known in the world, motivates most of the hate crimes and has lasted the longest. Why? Through a lecture using degenerate artworks, Marcia Jo Zerivitz will demonstrate the historical background of antisemitism, intolerance and bigotry and the insidious power of imagery in communicating the agenda of hatred, including Christian roots, the modern world and contemporary racist images from Florida culture covering the Klan, Nazism and restrictive covenants.

• Florida Jews in the U.S. Military. The exemplary history of Florida Jews in the military began in the mid-1800s with the Seminole Indian Wars when West Point graduate Abraham C. Myers served as quartermaster and a Florida city now bears his name, Ft. Myers. Jews have continued their participation in defense of democracy and freedom in every war. This illustrated lecture demonstrates how Jews have served in the military in a larger percentage than their share of the population. Those who came to America and then to Florida enlisted very often to become “accepted,” to overcome the concept of the “wandering Jew” and to show that they were not cowards. While serving, these Floridian Jews maintained the traditions of their heritage, even when it was challenging. Many earned medals and some were killed in action in each of the wars, including at least seven young Floridian Jews in the Gulf Wars. These individuals’ stories and their character traits are role models for the future generations. They risked their lives for a dream – our nation. This presentation pays tribute to these extraordinary Americans.

• Women in Florida Jewish History. Especially appropriate for Women’s History Month (March) and Florida Jewish History Month (January), this illustrated lecture covers the impact that women have had throughout 250 years of Florida Jewish history in business, education, law, military, politics, sports, the arts and in the community. Through all they achieved, these women maintained their traditions to pass on Jewish heritage. Learning what these women accomplished and contributed to the quality of life inspires those of today and tomorrow to continue to work hard to ensure the participation and recognition of women.

• Jews of Greater Miami. Florida, the first of the American territories to be discovered and settled in the 1500s, did not allow Jews to settle until 1763, and was among the last to develop a substantial Jewish population. The stereotyped image as the destination of Jews settling in Florida has been “Miami.” In reality, Miami was among the state’s latest communities to develop a Jewish population. Miami was founded in 1896 when Henry Flagler’s railroad was extended there - and this attracted Jews for the economic opportunity. Where did these Jews come from and how did they become such a powerful community? Jews owned 12 of Miami’s earliest 16 businesses. Jews began to settle on Miami Beach by 1913. Facing discrimination, the Jewish community grew to dominate the Beach, its politics and tourism industry until the 1980s. Barriers for Jews have been greatly dismantled and prejudice against Jews has lost its respectability. In this richly illustrated lecture, you will meet the pioneer Jews and learn of their struggles and successes, how they worked hard to help develop every area of their community and at opening society and now thrive in it.

• Jews of Broward County. Jews have lived in Broward County since 1910. Original research revealed the comprehensive story of the many roles that Jews have played in agriculture, retail, development, the arts and politics to create the home to the second largest Jewish community in Florida. This illustrated lecture demonstrates the tremendous impact that Jews have had on the growth of the area from swampland to a major metropolitan area and the anguish of antisemitism experienced as Jews settled there.