Join Us FOR
Never before has membership in the St. Augustine
Jewish Historical Society (SAJHS) meant so much!
SAJHS has been making amazing progress in discovering the nature of the Jews who came to these shores in 1565, some 42 years before the establishment of the British colony at Jamestown, Virginia and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.
Surely, you will want to be part of the excitement of these discoveries! Scholars around the globe have become aware of our work and are reaching out to us in many different ways. That’s how Stanley Hordes, PhD. the former State of New Mexico Historian, helped us identify Pedro Luis de Paez who came to St. Augustine, with his family, in 1583. That’s why Colorado State University Professor Roger L. Martinez-Davila is studying our records and comparing them with Inquisition Records of New Spain/Mexico.
More of these discoveries are coming our way and we can benefit from them, digest them and share them with our members and ultimately scholars around the world, if we have your support, if you will become a member of SAJHS.
To renew your annual membership or join as a new member visit https://sajhs.com/membership/ to submit dues with a credit card or PayPal. You may also send a check payable to “St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society” to Marcia Grado, Treasurer, 3443 Babiche St, Saint Johns, Florida 32259. Dues donations can be minimal (Students and Seniors are but $18 per year) but are huge in terms of your participation in helping to tell the stories of the Jews of St. Augustine, Florida!
June 18, 1964: The Arrest of 16 Rabbis in St. Augustine and Why it Matters
Flagler College Professor Butler
to speak on
the largest mass arrest of Rabbis in US History
April 24th at 4 p.m
The St. Augustine Waterworks
184 San Marco Ave, St. Augustine, FL 32084
The Waterworks is being made available through the generosity of the St. Johns Cultural Council and the City of St. Augustine.
Professor Butler’s presentation is hosted by the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society.
About Dr. J. Michael Butler
Dr. J. Michael Butler received his B. A. in History from Spring Hill College, a Jesuit college in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. He was named a President’s Scholar and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Professor Butler received both his Master’s and Doctorate in History from the University of Mississippi, where he specialized in 20th-century Southern Cultural History with an emphasis on the Civil Rights movement. In Oxford, Dr. Butler learned from some of the leading authorities in their historical fields, such as Ted Ownby, Charles Reagan Wilson, William R. Ferris, Charles Eagles, and Winthrop Jordan. After teaching at South Georgia College for eight years, Dr. Butler accepted a position at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida in 2008, where he developed a number of new History courses pertaining to Southern History, African American History, Cultural History, and the Florida Civil Rights Movement. His work has appeared in many leading peer-reviewed academic publications, such as The Journal of American Studies, The Journal of Southern History, The Florida Historical Quarterly, and Southern Cultures. Butler’s book Beyond Integration: The Black Freedom Struggle in Escambia County, Florida, 1960-1980 won a 2017 Florida Book Award in nonfiction. Dr. Butler has spoken to dozens of teachers and community groups about how the past continues to inform the present in the United States, particularly in the ongoing struggle for racial justice and equality. His latest project is a historical examination of the construction, meaning, and ultimate removal of the St. Augustine Confederate obelisk, a topic Dr. Butler learned much about when he served on the city’s Monument Contextualization Committee in 2019.
Literally within hours of the arrests and the release of news coverage, the filibuster in the US Senate blocking the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was broken and the legislation was passed, creating what the US Constitution called “A more perfect Union!”
The creation of this curriculum is an important milestone in the efforts of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical to bring attention to this highly under-told episode in American-Jewish History and the role played by Jews in that history. For more than a decade, the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society has commemorated this largest mass arrest of Rabbis with an annual June 18th reading of the letter first “written at 3:00 am. in the sweltering heat of a sleepless night, by the light of the one naked bulb hanging in the corridor outside” their small cell. That annual event is held at the site of the arrest, now in the courtyard of the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront.
Florida’s St. Johns County Public Schools has handed the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society a big “Win” in the quest to make known the largest mass arrest of Rabbis in U.S. history. There is now a non-compulsory element in the “Exploring African-American History” unit entitled “The Monson Motor Lodge Protests.” This element covers the June 18, 1964 arrests of 16 Rabbis who came to St. Augustine after receiving a request for help from Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Council.
Students are given a copy of the letter “Why We Went To St. Augustine” the Rabbis wrote in their cell at the St. Johns County Jail. After reading the letter, students are asked to evaluate the consequences of Social Activism. Secondly, students are asked, “What personal sacrifice did the rabbis experience protesting segregation?” Finally, students are asked how laws reflect the changing attitudes of society.
In another section of the curriculum, students are asked about the attempt on the part of the Rabbis to pray at the entrance to the segregated lunchroom at the Monson Motor Lodge. Students are asked to consider how prayer was used as a form of activism and how prayer was used to form a coalition, bringing together people of different faith traditions for the purposes of social justice.
The letter, written by the group through the night by the light of a singular light bulb, decried the hypocrisy of Jim Crow segregation in St. Augustine, and its citizens, who remained “unable to bring themselves to act, yet knowing in their hearts that this cause is just.” The rabbis’ memory of the Holocaust, and the “millions of faceless people” who remained similarly passive to systematic persecution against Jews, spurred their decision to take a vocal stand in support of civil rights in the United States.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act the following day, June 19, 1964, after an 83-day filibuster
This event is part of the Florida Talks program, a partnership between Florida Humanities and the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society. It is sponsored in part by Florida Humanities with funds from the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the aforementioned entities
SAJHS Celebrates its
Monday, January 30th—12 Noon
TACO LIBRE #3 – St. Augustine
2600 N. Ponce De Leon Blvd. St. Augustine, Fl 32084
Join us for a celebration and a retrospective of the Ten Year History of
The St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society-SAJHS
There is no charge for lunch!
How did we begin? What have been the highlights of our Ten Year History? Who do we have to thank for our amazing successes?
LEON (LEE) WEAVER MEMORIAL
The St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society mourns the loss of our beloved
Board Member and Creative Force
LEON (LEE) WEAVER
who passed away, on November 8, 2022. Lee leaves behind his wife (and SAJHS Board Member) Nanette, son Jeffrey, Daughter Jennifer, stepchildren Staci Taylor, Jason Drago, and Chris Drago.
Lee was a well-known actor and playwright. His loss leaves a tremendous void in the hearts of so many SAJHS supporters.
Jewish Historical Society Presents Lee Weaver in his play “The Secret”
“The Secret,” a one-man play by award-winning playwright and actor Lee Weaver will be staged at the St. Augustine Waterworks, 184 San Marco Ave., St. Augustine, FL, 32084, at 7 pm on September 8th.
Weaver will portray a man in search of Jews, forbidden in the New World by the tribunals of the Spanish Inquisition.
“The Secret” (written and performed by Lee Weaver) is a two-hour presentation about a Spanish Inquisition “Finder” who crosses the Atlantic with Pedro Menendez in 1565. His task: find Jews in the New World and turn them into the authorities. “The Secret” is about adventure. on the high seas, love, family, hiding, discovery, torture, life and death, Judaism, The Church, The Law, and the Rack!
Have questions? Please call 904-907-7987
There is NO CHARGE to attend this two-hour presentation
This play is presented as part of the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society’s celebration of its 10th year and the 457th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, Florida.
This program is made possible through the generosity of The St. Johns Cultural Council and the City of St. Augustine.
Thursday, September 8 @ 7 pm
Ninth Annual Largest Mass Arrest of Rabbis Commemoration
Ninth Annual Commemoration of the Largest Mass Arrest of Rabbis
to be held at the
Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront,
Friday June 17 at 12 pm.
Friday, June 17th at 12 p.m.
The Ninth Annual Commemoration of the largest mass arrest of Rabbis in US History will take place outdoors at the Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront, 32 Avenida Menendez, St. Augustine, at 12 noon, Friday, June 17th. This 30 minute event sponsored by the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society, is free and all are welcome.
On June 18, 1964, 16 Rabbis and a Reform Jewish administrator, who had come to St. Augustine at the request of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were arrested and held in the St. Johns County Jail. Overnight, they wrote a letter entitled “Why We Went to St. Augustine” that will be read as part of the commemoration.
Temple Bet Yam
Wednesday, May 11th at 2 p.m.
St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society to explore the history of
Temple Bet Yam, May 11th at 2 p.m.
The St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society will explore the history of Temple Bet Yam, with a program in the synagogue’s facility at 2055 Wildwood Drive, St. Augustine, Florida 32086, on Wednesday, May 11th at 2 p.m. The program will include presentations by Temple Bet Yam founders Shelly and Marty Cohen, Carol Gladstone, Joan Guglielmo, and Donna and Elliott Palevsky. The program is open to the public, all are welcome. There is no charge. No advance arrangements need be made.
Founded in 1993, the establishment of Bet Yam is a local expression of a seismic shift within the world of American Jewry toward a more liberal understanding and interpretation of Jewish Heritage.
Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville
Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 7 pm
Jewish Community Alliance of Jacksonville will be hosting an overview of the Jewish History of St. Augustine, presented by the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society at
7 pm on Thursday, March 3, 2022.
The event will take place at the JCA’s facilities at 8505 San Jose Blvd. Jacksonville, Florida 32217. This program is open to all, free of charge and no advance arrangements are necessary. Ample parking is available.
The overview will begin with the presence of Jews at the 1565 founding of the first European settlement in what would become the United States of America. The era of Moses Elias Levy who carved out a Utopian plantation for world Jewry in lands from Ocala to Astor, Florida in the 1820s will lead to the oldest Jewish cemetery in Florida and the grave of Gershon Poznanski buried in St. Augustine during Hanukkah 1839. The arrival of Eastern European Jews in the decades that followed 1880 and the establishment of First Congregation Sons of Israel will flow naturally to the largest mass arrest of Rabbis in US History that took place at the Monson Hotel on Avenida Menendez on June 18, 1964. The arrest of the Rabbis, in St. Augustine at the request of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—and to the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner of Mississippi Burning fame in Neshoba County, Mississippi.
St. Augustine City Commission
Monday, January 10th at 5 pm
The St. Augustine City Commission to Proclaim January as
“St. Augustine Jewish History Month”
Please come with us to the St. Augustine City Commission Chambers on Monday, January 10th at 5 pm. in The Alcazar Room on the first floor of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in downtown St. Augustine.
At that time, the City Commission will be proclaiming January as “St. Augustine Jewish History Month,” recognizing the many contributions of Jews to the community from its founding in 1565 down to the present day.
In October of 2003, Governor Jeb Bush signed a historic bill into law designating January of
each year as Florida Jewish History Month. . It seemed appropriate to honor Jewish contributions to the State, as sixteen percent, over 850,000 people of the American Jewish community lives in Florida. Marcia Zerivitz is largely responsible for the designation in her role as the Chief Ambassador of Florida’s Jewish History.
There is no charge for attending St. Augustine City Commission meetings. All are welcome. It is likely that the City Government will gauge the meaning of this proclamation, in part, through attendance. So please bring your family and friends. The proclamation is made near the beginning of the meeting. You are welcome to stay for the remainder of the meeting or to leave after a short time. But do make plans to join us for just a few minutes at 5 pm. Monday January 10th.
First Congregation Sons of Israel
Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 1 pm
Join us for a visit to First Congregation Sons of Israel
You are welcome (as are your family and friends) to join the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society as we visit the oldest synagogue in Florida in continuous use, First Congregation Sons of Israel on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 1 pm. Simply meet us at the synagogue found at 161 Cordoba Street, St. Augustine, 32084. There is no charge for this event, no advance arrangements are necessary. Limited off-street and on street parking is available.
There are older Jewish congregations in Florida! There are older synagogue buildings in Florida. The two older synagogue buildings are found in Ocala and Pensacola. One is an Elks Lodge and the other a church! There is no synagogue in Florida holding regular services every week than First Congregation Sons of Israel in St. Augustine!
It’s time we all learned more about the remarkable nature of this building, built just a few hundred yards south of the old Ponce de Leon Hotel in an era when no Jews were permitted to stay as overnight guests!
Genealogist Genie Milgrom
Wednesday, March 31st at 7 pm
Genealogist Genie Milgrom
Author, genealogist and award-winning educator Genie Milgrom will help the St. Augustine Jewish Historical Society trace the possible Jewish roots of the colonists and founder of Palm Valley – Don Diego Espinosa – in this exclusive event.
New Topic“Crypto-Jewish Genealogy: An Overview”
- WPast President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami
- WPast President of Tarbut Sefarad-Fermoselle in Spain
- WPast President of the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies
- WWinner: 2015 and 2018 Latino Author Book Awards
- WMy 15 Grandmothers
- WHow I found My 15 Grandmothers, A Step By Step Guide
- WPyre to Fire
- WJournal of Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Crypto Jewry
- WWriter for esefarad.com
Professor John D. Young
Associate Professor of Humanities, Flagler College
New TopicJewish Well-poisoning accusations
Wednesday, February 10, 7:00 PM
- WKenan Distinguished Associate Professor of Liberal Education and History, 2018-21
- WVisiting Professor at the University of Würzburg, Fall 2015 and Fall 2018
- WFellow, Forschungsstelle für vergleichende Ordengeschichte, University of Dresden
- WPreaching and New Worlds: Sermons as Mirrors of Realms Far and Near
- WA Fruitful Partnership: Jews and the Canons of St. Kilian in Twelfth-century Würzburg
- WPreaching and New Worlds: Sermons as Mirrors of Realms Far and Near
- WThis Small Spot: A Narrative History of Selected World Civilizations
- WMedieval Monastic Sermons: An Argument for New Editions
- WStanding Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy
St Augustine, FL USA