Cuban Jews to be featured n museum exhibit

When the communist revolution began in Cuba in 1959, most Jews fled and started new lives. Many of them came to South Florida to start a vibrant Jewish community. Several of them are featured in 30 large format candid photographs by Miami photographer Randi Sidman-Moore at the Jewish Museum of Florida’s upcoming exhibit, “Lox with Black Beans & Rice: Portraits of Cuban Jews in South Florida.”

“The reason we’re hosting this exhibit is because we have a significant Cuban Jewish community here and they have made a terrific impact here,” said Marcia Jo Zerivitz, the museum’s founding executive director and chief curator. “When they first came here they were pretty much isolated. They were exiled and pretty much segregated themselves as they started their own division of things and now they are fully integrated into the mainstream Jewish community.”

The exhibit opens to the public on April 27. The photos in it include brief oral histories and reflect the daily lives and life and holiday cycles rituals of this group of people and how they are different or similar to the larger society. The idea for Sidman-Moore working on this project began approximately 12 years ago on a trip to Israel when she ended up in a bus with Cuban Jews from Miami.

“They had me in tears and they were so funny,” she recalled. “The other Jews were so quiet but they were having a party on the bus. They introduced me to the whole subculture.”

Sidman-Moore, who grew up in New York and studied photography at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and at Studio Art Centers International in Florence, Italy, said she knew immediately that she wanted to explore the lives of Cuban Jews and to tell their stories in photographs of what makes them different from other Jews and other Cubans. She discussed what she learned about Cuban Jews during her work on this project.

“The first thing that I learned is that the Cuban Jewish community is very large,” she said. “I believe there are over 12,000 families living in South Florida and they continued with their customs from Cuba when they moved here which makes them unique and sets them apart from everyone I met going to college and while I was living in New York. Although I met families that keep kosher, they cook kosher Cuban food so they incorporate their roots into their foods and culture.”

The project took Sidman-Moore five years to complete and was funded with grants from the Palm Beach Community Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Florida Atlantic University, which first exhibited the photographs. This exhibit will run through Sept. 26. For more information on the exhibit and admission prices, call the museum at 305-672-5044 or visit The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesdays- Sundays and is located at 301 Washington Ave. in Miami Beach.


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