317 A Philip Randolph Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32202
For about a century—from the post antebellum era to the 1960s or so—the communal experience of Jews in the South was largely defined by the mercantile role that they played on the Main Streets of villages and small towns. That was also true in cities like Jacksonville, where major department stores, clothing stores and other downtown shops were disproportionately owned by Jewish entrepreneurs and their families. The impact of a “Big Store” like Cohen Bros. and its rivals like Furchgott’s be measured in terms of the modernization of the South They flourished and also facilitated the prosperity of the community, while marking the broader shift from the goals of production in the nineteenth century to the emphasis upon consumption in the twentieth century. Yet there were shifts within Jacksonville Jewry too, as the shopkeepers and merchants of German origin were succeeded by immigrants and their progeny from Eastern Europe. Among them was the Wolfson family, which started in the scrap business and then succeeded in a variety of enterprises, while contributing notably to philanthropy in Jacksonville as well. This is a saga of pluck, luck and upward mobility that can shed light on the economic and social history of the city.