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Florida Jewish History

  • In 1763, the first recorded Jews in Florida came to Pensacola, in the northwest corner of the territory. More Jews moved to north Florida in the next few decades, but the Jewish population remained small during this time, numbering no more than a dozen individuals.
  • In 1821, the Jewish population numbered only 30 to 40 people, all in northern parts of the state. Moses Levy plans a Jewish colony in Mcanopy, where the University of Florida is today.
  • When Florida became a state, March 3, 1845, there were less than 100 Jews in a population of 66,500. The first U.S. Senator from Florida was a Jew, David Levy Yulee.
  • In 1857, the Jacksonville Hebrew Cemetery became the state's first Jewish institution.
  • In 1876, Beth El, in Pensacola, received charter from the state as Florida's first Jewish congregation. By 1900 six other congregations had been established.
  • In 1928 some Jews moved to south Florida, however the majority of the Jewish population remained to the north, with 40% of the state's 10,000 Jews living in Jacksonville in 1928.
  • Florida's economic boom continued after the Great War ended, well into the "Roaring Twenties." Miami Beach became known for its casinos and night life. In the 1940's Miami replaced Jacksonville as the city with the largest Jewish population; 5,000.
  • By 1940, there were about 25,000 Jews in Florida.
  • By 1960 the Jewish population grew dramatically to over 175,000. Many Jewish retirees from the northeastern United States moved to South Florida. Thousands more Jews arrived from the Caribbean and Latin America, a migration that continues today.
  • Today with about 750,000 Jews, Florida is home to the third largest Jewish population in the country, and the numbers continue to rise. Jewish influence in Florida continues to be a part of everyday life and Jews continue to contribute to their society.

For a more detailed information about the history of the Jewish communities in Florida, please visit the Jewish Museum Website.