Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU to feature Charlie Cinnamon exhibit

By: Joshua Ceballos/News Director

“Most Jews weren’t allowed to own property on the north side of the beach.”

That’s what Susan Gladstone, director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU had to say about Miami Beach north of Fifth Street in 1929, when the Beth Jacob Congregation was founded. The temple for this congregation would eventually become the museum in 1995 after Hurricane Andrew.

For a long time, Miami Beach was very much segregated and Jews were kept at arm’s length according to Gladstone, but her museum is not about focusing on the negatives of the past, but rather the positive. On a tour of the museum, Gladstone pointed out the focus of this museum is to highlight the positive contributions that the Jewish people have made to the world, and in particular to Florida.

Walls on either side of the main building are lined with pictures collected by Marcia Jo Zerivitz of Jewish people from throughout Florida who have made strides in sports, medicine, film, real film, and many other areas relevant to history.

What connects these histories to the community of Miami Beach and the world, Gladstone said, is the immigrant experience.

“The immigrant experience is a universal experience. Any group of people coming from one place to another are going to experience very similar things like culture shock and language shock,” said Gladstone. “So part of our mission is to showcase that you can move from this point of just arriving to thriving and being a contributor to your new community.”

The museum’s three parts: two wings and the conjoining chamber, are home to traveling exhibitions that get cycled out every four months said Gladstone. The main wing will soon be showing off a new exhibition starting June 19, 2018 about famous Jewish press agent Charlie Cinnamon, himself a proud Miami resident before his passing in 2016.

“Charlie Cinnamon was one of the nicest men who ever lived, he was a consummate gentleman,” said Gladstone. “He was beloved not only for his caliber of work as a press agent, but also his kindness and generosity.”

Not every exhibit contains art made by Jewish people or of Jewish people, however.

In the center chamber of the museum that connects the two wings of the building, there is currently displayed paintings by Tennessee Williams. Portraits and scenes done in his off time when not writing plays.

“He was one of the greatest playwrights ever and everyone knows him for that, but not a lot of people know that he painted,” she said.

The reason these paintings are in the museum, Gladstone said, was that they were given by Williams to a close friend of his named David Wolkovsky, a Jewish man from Key West, Florida, and Wolkovsky has lent them to the museum to display.

In the next wing of the museum, held in the original building of the Beth Jacob temple, is an exhibition entitled, “Sexuality Spectrum.”

Piece by artist Joan Snyder which focuses on her partner and the difficulty she found in creating a label for her in their relationship

Pictures, paintings, and art pieces of LGBTQ people and their experiences are hung up on green walls erected throughout the room, each wall a different shade of green to reflect a spectrum of color much like the spectrum that the art is showcasing, according to Gladstone.

Much like the immigrant story being a universal story, Gladstone said that the story of this exhibit is about a history of discrimination, which many people, including Jews, can relate to.

One piece in particular that she pointed out was a frame with multiple fabric triangles in different colors: yellow, pink and red among others, and French words sewn into the canvas including “Juif” meaning “Jew,”

“Most people talk about the six million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust, but many more were killed because they were labeled as undesirable by the Nazis. A pink triangle meant you were homosexual, and each color meant a different kind of undesirable,” she said.

Colored triangles denoting classification under the Nazi regime during WWII

The Tennessee Williams and Sexuality Spectrum exhibits will be at the museum until around Oct., at which point new exhibitions will take their place.

What Gladstone wants University students most to know is that this museum is not just a part of the Jewish community, not just the Miami Beach community, but very much a part of the FIU community.

“To see my alma mater grow from a small school with a few buildings to the fourth-largest public university, and it sponsors a Jewish museum, it makes me a very proud panther,” she said. “I want to proudly make sure that everyone knows the museum is part of FIU.”

 

Featured image of Charlie Cinnamon courtesy of The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

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