Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Totally Unplanned Last Day In Florida

[blogging from up in the air. I’m above the border of Texas and Lousiana]

So I spent my last full day in Florida being spontaneous and to the max! And what a great way to end the middle part of my trip.

Yesterday in the morning, my uncle drove me south to Miami because as they say “if you haven’t seen Miami you haven’t reached Florida.” Then lunchtime flew by, but we spent some time driving around several blocks because finding a reasonable parking space downtown is almost impossible. Anyways, it was during the drive-by that a building sign caught my eye: The Jewish Museum of Florida. I just couldn’t pass that up, so after we finally got parking and found a place to eat, I walked a block to the museum.

Just for your information, the museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach. The building actually used to be a synagogue, so the structure itself is much to admire. There are beautiful stained glass windows, a sloped hardwood floor, the original pews, a marble terrace-looking stage in the front… I spent about 2 hours there. They let you take pictures of everything! Say you are a student and you get senior admission: $5. But trust me, the experience is totally worth more than 5 bucks. I was lucky enough to catch the museum tour too. Our guide was a sweet old Jewish lady. She was so adorable and had so much to share about her culture.  I liked it when just went on her tangents; it just makes the facts a little more personal and interesting. 

Everything in the museum passes two requirements: related to Jewish culture and related to Florida. The museum also has its seasonal exhibitions, and the one I was in for revolves around the case of Leo Frank, which happened in 1913. To summarize the incident, it is a story of prejudice and injustice against Jews in America (deep south). Leo Frank was a young Jewish man who was wrongly accused of raping and murdering a girl and eventually lynched by the racists in his town. The collection of the actual news stories from the day is astonishingly  comprehensive and well-preserved. I was told that the room had to be kept a certain temperature to ensure that artifacts stay protected from worn.

The rest of the museum displays various evidences of Jewish life, dating from the BCE's all the way to modern era. As you should expect there are features on the Holocaust and Jewish persecution, but ultimately the museum is about how the Jews overcame their hardships and rebuilt their lives… in Florida. Just something that will blow your mind - did you know that the creators behind Superman were all Jewish and that Superman was meant to be a symbol of the Jews triumphing over the Nazis?
1. Notable Jewish athletic accomplishments
2. Jewish pride
3. Star of David mosaic artwork
4. Costume worn by a Jewish girl in Florida in 1918 for the 'Purim' festival
5. The actual Torah that was famously transported to Florida from Russia in 1903 by Marcus Weinkle

Originally I had planned to drive back down to Miami at night because as they say “Miami in the morning and Miami at night are two different places,” but I was invited to dinner at a Benihanas near where I was staying at.
At dinner I made a new friend. We got along so well she spontaneously invited me to go to her house at midnight (dinner was very late) to play wii… And I spontaneously accepted.

And so my last day in Florida ended about 3 in the morning today after I got home from my new friend's house and finished packing... I told you – spontaneous and to the max. =]
Bye-bye, Florida!

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