Despite the Myth, Jewish People Could Always Buy Property in Miami Beach

Sadly, regretfully and unhappily, the Greater Miami Myths seem to have a life of their own, with the most shameful part being that such entities as Hysterical Miami and Miami’s walking fountain of MISinformation as well as the late queen bee (No names, please—we’re British) never seemed to have had any problem or issue with propagating the nonsense.

I imagine some of you, particularly if you are of the Hebrew persuasion, may have heard another of the totally false and as nonsensically egregious as too many of the other falsehoods, this one being the bubbemisseh (Yiddish for fable or fairy tale) that, “oh, Jews weren’t allowed to buy property north of Fifth Street on Miami Beach until after 1920,” which, from the first time I heard that nothing but hooey story as a teenager living on Miami Beach questioned it, (something that too many self-appointed so-called historians without portfolio of any kind to qualify them as deserving of that title don’t seem to care about doing. In addition,  too many other well-meaning but totally without a sense of the vitalness and importance of seeking out the historical truth individuals were willing to buy into that (and no few other fables) without questioning it or them as to the veracity of same.

Even then, as “a kid,” I would ask the teller of tall tales several questions: Where did you hear that? Who did you hear it from? Is it or was it ever in writing? Was it a statute in print? Where did you learn this or get this from? And the answer, as with all of the other totally without basis in truth or fact nonsense that has been spread and spewed through the years related to and regarding Greater Miami history was—and is—always the same:  “Well, I heard…”

But you see, dear readers,

“I heard” is too often—much too often—the genesis of rumors (often vicious and damaging rumors) that, in no few cases, have led to horrifically hideous and utterly shameful results, which, as that situation is not the thrust of this piece, I won’t go into here and now. But what I will do is totally debunk that crock of utterly feculent feces, primarily because there is no truth to that story, none at all.

“But Seth,” you say, “I’ve heard it so many times” and that is because it makes a good story for those who enjoy spreading falsehoods, among them the former mayor of Surfside who, before the Greater Miami Jewish Federation some months ago got up and said “Surfside was founded as an anti-semitic community and Jews were not allowed to buy property there,” which, when I heard that one, literally made me want to puke because that story is a total, utter and complete lie, which I will debunk in a future issue when we finish the topic immediately at hand regarding the right of Jewish people to buy property north of Fifth Street on Miami Beach prior to 1920.

The oft-asked question is “but how do you know?” and, as America’s senior collector of Florida East Coast Railway, Florida transportation memorabilia, Miami memorabilia and Floridiana and as the only person in the state of Florida who gives the two talks titled “The History of Discrimination in South Florida,” which is half Jim Crow and segregation and half restricted clientele and “Debunking the South Florida Myths” I have to be able to show and prove  that the statements I am debunking are false, and, as such very much and very badly need to be debunked.

As a side note, dear readers, The Bramson Archive holds the largest collection of black Miami memorabilia in white hands in the country (notice the proper disclaimer) as well as the largest collection of restricted clientele memorabilia in public or private hands in America, NO disclaimer necessary with that statement of FACT.

“OK, Seth, we capice (or comprende or comprende-vous or phishtast), but what, then, is the truth and what are the facts?

The truth is and the facts are that the “Jewish people were not allowed to buy property on Miami Beach north of Fifth Street until after 1920” garbage is a totally made-up story that is generally used by those who want to talk about anti-semitism in early Dade County and who might have heard it “along the way,” but the story is not only completely false but is easily and totally de-bunkable, so please, do not just pay attention here, but, also, please feel free to tell anybody who brings that story up what the truth is and what the facts are, and that the truth and the facts are  not only readable right here in “The Jitney,” but for all of our readers, are these:

First, after a through search of existing Miami Beach statutes,

nothing, going back to the city’s beginning in March of 1915, exists in writing with any statements or wording which bring up or would back up the story, and, second, yes, we have written (not oral, written) proof regarding the fallaciousness of the fable.

When word got out that I was writing L’CHAIM! The History of the Jewish Community of Greater Miami , I received a phone call and without going into the glorious details, it was because of that phone call that the entire collection of the Ida and Isidor Cohen family (they the first permanent Jewish settlers to arrive on the shores of Biscayne Bay, Ida with her first husband, Jacob Schneidman, in late 1894, Isidor (who married Ida and adopted her two sons after Jacob passed away) on February 6, 1896, was donated to The Bramson Archive with the book being dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Cohen and the first chapter titled “The Cohen Family.”

In perusing the incredible material, what should turn up (like manna from heaven!) but two (not one but two) letters from the Lummus Investment Company (as in Lummus, LUM-muss–Park on Miami Beach being named for them, J. N Lummus being Miami Beach’s first mayor and his brother  J. E Lummus being Miami’s third mayor) dated February and March, 1917 selling land north of Fifth Street on Miami Beach to—yes, you guessed it—Isidor Cohen.

And so, and with that, I truly hope you have enjoyed the debunking of another myth and another total Greater Miami falsehood and, gentlemen and ladies of all ages, we will be back with you soon with another “debunking” episode.

(Yes, yes, I know, “all Professor Bramson wants to do is ruin those wonderful stories with the truth!” Now ain’t that terrible?!! Would, of course, on the other hand, be even better for all of us if so many of South Florida’s so-called historians [or are they, in reality, hysterians?] would be willing to do the same, instead of making up utter nonsense because it sounds good, regardless of the total lack of factuality of the story!)

Liked it? Take a second to support The Jitney on Patreon! The Jitney needs gas. Please donate or become a Patron here
Become a patron at Patreon!

Seth H. Bramson

Seth H. Bramson is America’s single most published Florida history book author. 24 of his 33 books deal directly with the villages, towns, cities, counties, people and businesses of the Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County “gold coast.”