Every four years, it seems, the nation’s attention turns to the Jews of South Florida, under the assumption that the retirees in Delray, young families in Broward and Palm Beach counties and Latin America-born Jews in Miami could swing a tight presidential election.
Indeed, Bill Clinton spoke at the Century Pines Jewish Center in Pembroke Pines on Sunday on behalf of his wife Hillary’s presidential bid, while Ivanka Trump worked the pews for her father Donald at the Bal Harbour shul in the Miami suburb of Surfside on Thursday.
That Florida is challenging New York and Southern California as a center of Jewish gravity was acknowledged in another, less expected way last week, when the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would unveil its 2016 Hanukkah stamp in Boca Raton.
“We chose this location based on southern Florida’s vibrant Jewish population,” Debra Fetterly, a postal service spokeswoman, told the Sun-Sentinel in announcing the Nov. 1 ceremony at Temple Beth El, a Reform congregation celebrating its 50th year.
The Sun-Sentinel puts the Jewish population of South Florida at 550,000, making it the third largest Jewish metro area after New York and its suburbs and Greater Los Angeles. That includes a suprising recent resurgence of Miami’s Jewish population, which is growing for the first time in four decades. According to a 2014 study by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the Jewish population of Miami-Dade County increased to 123,000 from 113,000 in 2004. In recent years, Miami has become a magnet for Latin Americans, including Jews from Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru.
And while Palm Beach County has the oldest median Jewish age in the country, 70, the southern part of Palm Beach County has the highest density in the country of Jews proportionate to the total population: 49 percent.
Add in the smaller Jewish communities elsewhere in Florida, and one of every 10 American Jews resides in the Sunshine State.
The postal service, which has been offering Hanukkah stamps since 1996, has released the stamp during ceremonies in the Northeast over the years, but this year decided to scout new locations. The new stamp shows a lighted menorah glowing in a window pane with snow-covered branches in the background — you know, the quintessential Florida Hanukkah.
Administrators at the 1,500-family Temple Beth El were stunned by the news.
“It’s a really neat honor,” said executive director Steve Kaufman.