Remembrances of the Past
By Elliot Goldenberg / August, 2011
When you first click on to the home page of the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, you immediately hear a sweet song in Hebrew with voices that sound like the voices of angels. Indeed, perhaps they are.
Jewish history, after all, is filled with unspeakable tragedies like the Holocaust, but, as if guided by angels, it is also filled with remembrance and hope. The good memories, as well as the painful ones, are reflected in two wonderful attractions in Miami Beach, which are must-see destinations this summer for Jews and non-Jews alike. One is the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation; the other is the Jewish Museum of Florida.
The Holocaust Memorial provides a poignant tribute to the six million Jewish victims of the Third Reich during World War II. In a powerful display of pain and suffering, a bronze arm stretches toward the sky, while struggling to climb that arm are life-size sculptures depicting the horrified victims of the Shoah.
It was in the fall of 1984 that a group of Holocaust survivors formed a committee to build a permanent memorial in Miami Beach to those who perished at the hands of the Nazis. With the full cooperation of the Miami Beach City Commission, the memorial was dedicated and opened to the public in February, 1990. The guest speaker at the dedication was Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.
Today, a visitor to the memorial is initially struck by the brightness of the luminous Jerusalem stone, which represents the basic building material for the memorial, and the somber black granite that lines the walls. In stark contrast is the stillness of the water in the reflecting pools.
Architect and sculptor Kenneth Treister was entrusted with creating a structure that would memorialize the Shoah's victims, give some solace to its survivors, and serve as a visual reminder of the 20th century's greatest human crime.
"More than 100,000 people visit us each year," said Sharon Horowitz, the Holocaust Memorial's executive director. "It's a unique outdoor memorial garden, with over 100 sculptures, that helps the visitor to better understand what happened during those very dark times. It is actually very uplifting, however, as it helps people to think about what they can do to make the world better."
The Jewish Museum of Florida is the only museum in Florida devoted to recording, preserving and telling the story of the Jewish experience in Florida since the first Jews arrived in 1763. It opened in 1995 in a former historic synagogue that housed the first Jewish congregation on Miami Beach. Built in 1936, the Henry Hohauser-designed building that underwent a $1.5 million restoration boasts Art Deco features, a copper dome, and eighty stained glass windows. In 2007, the museum expanded to include the older building next door (the actual synagogue itself), with both buildings now on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum is much more than beautiful buildings. It is a place that presents its own traveling exhibits, sponsors cultural and educational programs, houses a collection and research center reflecting nearly 250 years of Florida Jewish history, and communicates Jewish history, art, culture and values to Jews and non-Jews alike.
Marcia Zerivitz, the Jewish Museum's founding executive director and chief curator, said the museum is also a place "where Jews of all ages can discover and re-affirm their rich heritage, thus helping to strengthen Jewish identity and continuity.
"It's especially important for young people to establish a sense of pride about who Jews are - and what they've accomplished. But while the story we tell is about one ethnic group, the Jews, it is actually an example of everyone's story of immigration because, really, when you come right down to it, we're all immigrants."
IF YOU GO
WHERE The Holocaust Memorial, located at 1933-45 Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach.
WHEN Open from 9 a.m. to sunset, seven days a week.
PRICE Admission is free.
Web Site www.holocaustmmb.org.
WHERE The Jewish Museum of Florida, located at 301 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach.
WHEN Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, but closed on Mondays, national holidays and Jewish holidays.
PRICE The entrance cost is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors (over 65), and $12 for families. There is no charge for children younger than age six or anyone on Saturdays.
Web Site www.jewishmuseum.com.
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