Wednesday, December 27, 2006

If you build it, they will kvell

Florida’s landscape and climate have always been a draw for real estate developers. In fact, the state’s seemingly endless construction boom has had a deep impact on its Jewish community. From happy seniors playing shuffle board in retirement villages to hip club-goers sipping cocktails in restored Art Deco hotels, the story of Florida’s Jews is inter-twined with the history of its buildings and those who built them.

Over 500 visuals, from old photographs, postcards and housing advertisements to floor plans, land deeds, tools, even a few sacks of concrete illustrate that history in “Bonim: Jewish Developers Building Florida & Building Community,” at the Jewish Museum of Florida through March 11. “Bonim,” which is Hebrew for builders, explores the Jewish visionaries behind Florida’s thriving real estate world and the many structures and development trends that are their legacy.

The museum itself is a grand venue in which to view this memorabilia since the building that houses the museum (above) was designed by noted Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser in 1936. It was the home of the first Jewish congregation in Miami Beach and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum’s gold-copper dome, 80 stained glass windows and 8 deco chandeliers offer a taste of the bygone era of swanky Miami Beach. While you're there, check out the stained glass window donated by Meyer Lansky, a reminder of Miami's more unsavory characters.

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