Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Book review: The real history of 'The Jews of Key West'


November 10, 2017

Written by Arlo Haskell, Sand Paper Press, $24, release date Nov. 15, 2017.

A little further south of Miami is the dramatic story of South Florida’s oldest Jewish community and a major addition to the history of this unique island city.

Long before Miami was on the map, Key West had Florida’s largest economy and an influential Jewish community. Jews who settled here as peddlers in the 19th century joined a bilingual and progressive city that became the launching pad for the revolution that toppled the Spanish Empire in Cuba. As dozens of local Jews collaborated with Jose Marti’s rebels, they built relationships that supported thriving Jewish communities in Key West and Havana at the turn of the 20th century.

During the 1920s, when anti-immigration hysteria swept the United States, Key West’s Jews resisted the immigration quotas and established “the southernmost terminal of the Jewish underground,” smuggling Jewish aliens in small boats across the Florida Straits to safety in Key West. But these and other Jewish exploits were kept secret as Ku Klux Klan leaders infiltrated local law enforcement and government.

Many Jews left Key West during the 1930s and their stories were ignored or forgotten by the mythmakers that reinvented Key West as a tourist mecca.

“The Jews of Key West” is an entertaining and authoritative account of Key West’s Jewish community from 1823-1969. Illustrated with over 100 images, it brings to life a history that had long been forgotten.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2019