TGIF: No means yes in South Beach

A picture of the museum

The Jewish Museum Florida FIU was designed by Henry Hohauser who attended Pratt Institute.

South Beach is a place of defiance. I once heard someone say, people come to South Beach to do every “God forsaken” thing they wouldn’t do anywhere else! No means yes in South Beach.

It should come as no surprise that the Jewish community in South Beach has often defied the status quo.

Art Deco weekend.

Thousands of people come to Art Deco Weekend each year.

Barbara Capitman was a Jewish woman who defied the establishment. Capitman fought city officials “tooth and nail” to preserve the historical buildings that light up Miami Beach and make it the second most popular place in Florida. If not for her vision and perseverance, there would not be an Art Deco District. The over 800 Art Deco buildings that remain are testaments to Capitman’s defiance. The Art Deco District was the first 20th century neighborhood placed on the National Register of Historic Places much to her efforts. The Miami Design Preservation League continues Capitman’s legacy.


Miami Design Preservation League poster rallying the community.

What’s more, Henry Hohauser, an architect who was Jewish, built over 300 Art Deco buildings. Hohauser lived in an era when signs “Gentiles Only” and “No Jews Allowed” were commonplace in South Beach. Jews were not even allowed to live beyond 5th Street.

An Art Deco chandelier and displays inside the Jews

An Art Deco chandler and displays inside the Jewish Museum.

Visit one of Hohauser’s buildings and experience first hand the story of Jewish culture in Florida. Hohauser’s building, once a synagogue, is now the home of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. Eighty stained glass windows, a copper dome, and chandeliers are reminders of the days when Hohauser and others worshipped in the synagogue. Taste and see the Jewish experience during the Jewish Food Tour that leaves from the Museum. Learn how the Jewish community thrived despite many obstacles.

Falafel and Israeli salad.

Enjoy Falafel and Israeli salad on the Jewish Food Tour.

Facing off with those who thought South Beach should be known only as a place for “fun in the sun,” Holocaust survivors garnered public support for the building of the Holocaust Memorial. A memorial garden and a sobering sculpture recall those who died and remind all who visit: “we shall NEVER forget.”

Sculpture at the Holocaust memorial

A bronze sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly at the Holocaust Memorial.

The impact of Jewish culture permeates every aspect of the city. Mount Sinai Hospital was built because Jewish doctors weren’t given staff privileges at area hospitals. The Bass Museum scheduled to reopen in the fall, is named in honor of John and Johanna Bass, Jewish immigrants who bequeathed over 500 works of art to the City of Miami Beach.

The Bass Museum in Miami Beach.

The Bass Museum in Miami Beach during Art Basel.

It is said that obstacles are opportunities. Fighting bias and opposition, the Jewish community realized that no means yes in South Beach.


Preservation 50 Friday: Memorial Day Getaway at Pensacola

Pensacola Lighthouse

Pensacola Lighthouse, Florida.

Salute the Blue Angels and pay tribute to our war dead on Memorial Day weekend.

A full day of activity beacons you at Pensacola, Florida. With pristine white sand beaches, a stoic lighthouse and the Naval Aviation Museum, there is much to explore.

Take a moment to pause at the Memorial Day ceremony at the All Faiths Chapel at the Naval Air Station Pensacola. Next, head to the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Pensacola Lighthouse is located on the Naval Air Station, the home of the Blue Angels. Experience the power of the mighty Blue Angels at eye level from the catwalk of the Lighthouse. Climb the landmark 1859 lighthouse and learn its history during a tour. Explore the Richard C. Callaway Museum with local history exhibits.

Museum signage

Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum.

Stop by the nearby Naval Aviation Museum, the world’s largest Naval Aviation Museum. End the day at Historic Fort Barrancas built 1839-44.

For more information on the Pensacola Lighthouse, visit

Perceptions and Preservations at Miami Beach

Lessons from a plant

Lessons from a Plant (Studio Apartments by Henry Houhauser).

Two years after moving to Miami, Barbara Capitman’s husband died. Instead of packing up her bags and feeling sorry for herself she decided to make new friends and help others.

She looked at Miami Beach and saw the old boarded up buildings and the people living in them. Developers only saw the buildings and wanted to tear them. Capitman would not relent.

Because of Capitman’s personal crusade, Miami Beach’s Art Deco District is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In celebration of Rosh Hashanah, I am paying tribute to Barbara Capitman, Jewish founder of the Miami Design Preservation League.

I will be displaying two paintings of Art Deco buildings in the First Coast Pastel Society’s “Perceptions in Pastel” exhibit.

The exhibit is September 4-30. at the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA) Vandroff Gallery. The opening reception is September 13. The JCA is located at 8505 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida. For more information, visit