Although I am staying downtown it is also nice to head to the beach occasionally and of course South Beach is the place to go. It is a bit of a shock to be lying by the beach drinking cocktails when only a few blocks away is an excellent Jewish Museum of Miami and more confrontationally the Holocaust Memorial which is very moving.
So here is the beach – as gorgeous as expected and even the advertising just floats past you on a portable movie screen so you don’t have to make much effort to read it!
It was the excellent guide at the Jewish Museum of Miami who suggested I hike over to the memorial. It is an excellent small museum in the former synagogue. Meyer Lanksy the infamous Jewish gangster lived in Miami Beach and gave generously to the local synagogue and was the only Jew who was refused the right to be buried in Israel; Many signs on restaurant and to enter clubs said “gentiles only” not that long ago; the first senator of Florida was a Sephardic Jew who arrived by way of Cuba; the famous Joe’s Stone crab shack on the Beach is 4th generation Weiss family owned and while the stone crab is expensive they still sell cheap burgers and chicken as the original owner said “I don’t care how fancy shmancy we become we always need to also provide food that the ordinary worker can afford” and they still do.
And here is the first thing you see when you approach the memorial which is close to the Botanical Gardens on 17th Street. Apparently when there was debate about where this should be put up – bearing in mind that in the 60s and 70s 75% of the Miami Beach area south of 5th was Jewish – the local church did not want this “in its shadow”. When the debate came up one Holocaust survivor said that she and her husband had been a concert pianist and both had one arm taken off in the camps so they could never play piano again – she argued for this memorial so “she could get her arm back”. Gives you goosebumps. So does the fact that the address of this memorial is 1933-1945 Meridian Street – pretty much covers the years from Kristellnacht to the end of the war. It was “beshert ” – a Yiddish word meaning “meant to be”.
Aside from the sheer scale of this memorial it is shocking yet peaceful at the same time. Worth a walk around for some quiet contemplation about the sheer scale of what happened back then – less than one hundred years ago. When you walk into the square naturally illuminated entrance you see all the names of the camps as you hear childrens’ voices quietly singing – very moving.