Members of the St Augustine Jewish Historical Society celebrated the eighth annual Florida Jewish History Month with a traditional Havdallah service in the southwest park at the foot of the Bridge of Lions on Saturday evening, January 21st at 7:30 p.m.
Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, president of the local society, led the service that customarily concludes the Jewish Sabbath.
Florida Jewish History Month came about after Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed the bill recognizing the month of January for the designation in October 2003. The statute was created by the Florida Legislature while recognizing that the Sunshine State’s Jewish History extends back to 1763 when the British gained control of the territory after the Treaty of Paris.
The St Augustine Jewish Historical Society is working to demonstrate that Marranos and Crypto-Jews, whose Jewish religious identities were forcibly suppressed by the forces of the Spanish Inquisition, were, in fact, part of the original settlers in the St Augustine of 1565.
The St Augustine Jewish Historical Society seeks to educate the local community about the meaning of Marranos, Conversos, Crypto-Jews, New Christians and how their existence in Spain five centuries ago, significantly impacts Floridians and all Americans in the 21st century.
The Society has already begun to explore and investigate the plausibility and possibility that the first Jews came ashore in St Augustine during the second half of the 16th century; while traditional Jewish history of the United States consistently maintains that Jews first came to New Amsterdam, later to become New York, in September 1654.
Shapiro in the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine St Augustine Jewish Historical Society is also working on programs to educate others about the role Jews played in the founding of St Augustine, the development of the community as a whole, and to represent Jewish interests.
The Havdallah program is the first of many planned events, Shapiro said. An experimental prototype of a “Jewish Tour of St. Augustine” is now scheduled for mid-March and a program memorializing the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust is planned for Wednesday evening, April 18th.
According to Shapiro, numerous gentiles and Jews are joining the effort to unravel the mysteries of St Augustine’s past.
Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News contributed photograph by St Augustine Jewish Historical Society