South Florida's Jewish Community Grows Beyond Its Retirees

Latin Americans, Orthodox Families Bring Diversity

An Orthodox Jewish woman takes in some sun in Miami.
Flickr
An Orthodox Jewish woman takes in some sun in Miami.

By Uriel Heilman

Published February 11, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — At the Urban Rustic Cafe in a strip mall in this city located between Miami to the south and the Palm Beach retirement communities to the north, the line for a table stretches out the door and into the parking lot.

Inside the kosher establishment, the volume is loud. An elderly Orthodox man sitting near the window leans across a table to hear what his wife is saying. At the dessert counter, a gaggle of boys with tzitzis fringes hanging from their shirts have their noses pressed against the glass.

Nearby, two stylishly dressed 30-something women chatter away in Spanish, one of them rocking a young baby. As the blond waitress trying to serve them bumps hips with a busboy, the two have a brief exchange in rapid-fire Hebrew.

Welcome to South Florida’s Jewish community, an amalgam of retirees, Latin American immigrants, Orthodox families, Holocaust survivors and plenty more.

More than half a million Jews live in three counties there – Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach – making the region America’s third-largest Jewish metro area behind only New York and Los Angeles. Add in the smaller Jewish communities elsewhere in Florida, and one of every 10 American Jews resides in the Sunshine State.

While many are retirees, Florida isn’t just a place for elderly Jews. A combination of factors – lower costs of living than in the Northeast, the lack of state income tax, Jewish institutional infrastructure, the draw of Miami to Latin American immigrants and, yes, the weather – has helped turn Florida into one of America’s largest, most diverse and most unusual Jewish communities.

“I think today we are no longer simply a retirement community,” said Jewish demographer Ira Sheskin, a professor of geography at the University of Miami.

The Jews of South Florida boast several distinctions. Palm Beach County has the oldest median Jewish age in the country, 70, according to the last Jewish community study of the area. The southern part of Palm Beach County has the highest density in the country of Jews proportionate to the total population: 49 percent, according to the same survey.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.