Throughout Jacksonville history, Jewish families have been immersed in city commerce, government and the community’s cultural life. In fact, prior to the 1930’s, Jacksonville’s Jewish population was the largest in Florida. Eventually, Miami took the lead. January speaker Marcia Jo Zerivitz features the city’s Jewish history and the important “firsts in Florida” that happened in Jacksonville.
About the Speaker
Marcia Jo Zerivitz, Founding Executive Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida, has been a leader in the American and Floridian Jewish communities for 50 years with a specific focus on museums and Florida Jewish history for the past 26 years. Marcia Jo retired from JMOF on October 1, 1011. Beginning in 1985, Marcia Jo traveled around Florida to research and retrieve the state’s unknown Jewish history, created a collection and a storyline of Jewish life in Florida and helped develop the MOSAIC exhibit that traveled to thirteen cities (1990-1994).
In 1985, under her direction, this project evolved into the Jewish Museum of Florida, now housed in two restored former synagogues, on the National Register of Historic Places. JMOF collects, preserves and interprets 250 years of the Jewish experience in Florida in the context of American and world Jewish history, art and culture and also to reflect the immigration experience of all Americans.
In 2012, the partnership with Florida International University was finalized, resulting in JMOF-FIU.
Marcia Jo frequently lectures on topics related to discrimination and Florida Jewish history, which she originally collected, compiled and documented, and consults and conducts workshops nationally for non-profits, including museums, on strategic planning, collections, exhibitions, non-profit governance and management, adaptive reuse of historic structures and fundraising.
She initiated the legislation for both a Florida Jewish History Month (January) and a Jewish American Heritage Month(May) to increase awareness of the contributions by Jews to the state and nation. In May 2010, 2011 and 2012, Marcia was invited to President Barack Obama’s White House receptions for Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM). On behalf of the Board of JMOF, she loaned the original 2006 Presidential Proclamation for JAHM to Jewish astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman to take on the Atlantis Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station in May 2010 and in August 2010, Reisman returned the document to her. Marcia serves on the Board for Jewish American Heritage Month.
Marcia wrote (with co-author) Florida Jewish Heritage Trail, published by Florida Dept. of State (250 sites in 44 cities with Jewish historical significance). Marcia authored all of the Florida entries for the Encyclopedia Judaica and her scholarship has been used in films and books, including by Brandeis University Press; she has been published internationally. In 2009, her photodocumentary book, Jews of Greater Miami, was released.