Jewish Genealogical Society of Broward County
Trace your Jewish roots and discover your family's unique history



Historical research compiled by Bernard Israelite Kouchel initially in 1991-1992 when he chaired the Broward County Research Committee for "MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida," the organization that is now the Jewish Museum of Florida.

This timeline begins with some of the formative events in Florida history and then focuses on the story of Broward's Jewish history, from early settlers to people who are an integral part of the county's culture and commerce today. It is dedicated to the pioneers who shaped the communities in which we live today.

The beginnings of it all:


The first historic peoples are the Tequesta Indian Tribe who inhabited south Florida from approximately 400 B.C. to 1700 A.D. They lived on the beaches, around the mouths of rivers, inlets and the Everglades. (The Tequesta buried their dead in specially built mounds. A historically-significant mound exists near the 14th hole at the Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club.)



Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovers Florida—is met by Tequesta tribe. He sets up the first colony in 1521.



St. Augustine founded by Spanish conquistadors. (Today it is the oldest, continuously-occupied settlement of European origin in North America.)



Twenty-three Sephardic Jews seeking sanctuary from the Spanish Inquisition leave Recife, Brazil for New Amsterdam (present-day New York City), where they form the first Jewish community on North American soil.



By now, the last of the Tequesta are gone. England acquires Florida from the Spanish.



Jewish history in Florida begins with the arrival of Alexander Solomons, Joseph de Palacios and Samuel Israel in Pensacola. Later, Jews trickle in to Tallahassee and St. Augustine.



On July 4th, a new nation is born as the Congress formally endorses the United States Declaration of Independence.



Spain regains control of all of Florida.


c. 1792

Surles and Frankee Lewis, who came from the Bahamas, are the first permanent, non-native residents. They settle on the New River, on land that later becomes much of downtown Fort Lauderdale.



Spain sells Florida to the United States for 5 million dollars. Settlers pour in from neighboring states, settling especially in the area around the newly-founded capital of Tallahassee. More Jews are free to move to Florida.



Moses Elias Levy purchases 53,000 acres of land in northeast Florida. Levy believes that Florida could be a new Zion—a home for the persecuted Jews of Europe. (His vision has become a reality. South Florida now has the third largest concentration of Jewish population in the United States.)



The Seminoles arrive here in the early 1820s, along with a few white planters who set up along the river.



Major William Lauderdale in the Second Seminole War leads a detachment of Tennessee Volunteers to do battle with the elusive Seminoles. They establish a post, later given his name, on the New River.



David Levy Yulee, son of Moses Elias Levy, is elected territorial delegate to Congress for Florida (1841-1845) and United States Senator for Florida (1845-1851). He was the first Jew to serve in Congress and the first Jew to serve in the U.S. Senate.



On March 3rd, Florida is admitted into the Union as the 27th state. Fewer than 100 Jews live among its 66,500 people. (5)



When 6 Jews die of Yellow Fever, the Jacksonville Hebrew Cemetery is founded. It is Florida's first organization formed by a Jewish community. Until Jewish cemeteries were established in Florida, remains were shipped out of state for ritual burial.



The Civil War Years: After Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, proslavery sentiment in Florida led the state to secede from the Union in 1861 and join the Confederacy.



Temple Beth El is founded in Pensacola, making it the first Jewish congregation in the state. By 1900, six other congregations are established.



South Florida at this time is largely an uninhabited frontier. The population center of Broward is Pine Island, west of present day Davie, with 25 to 30 Seminole families who cultivate gardens and roam the Everglades in search of game. (1)



The U.S. Census lists only 861 people from St. Lucie south to the Keys. The Coast Line Canal (now the Intercoastal Waterway) is cleared from Jupiter to Biscayne Bay, bringing the region its first link with the "outside." (2)



Bay Stage Line links Lake Worth with Lemon City (Miami), operating on a shell rock road. Passengers on the two-day stagecoach trip make overnight stop at the New River camp. Frank Stranahan, first permanent white settler, is hired to run both the overnight camp for the stage and the New River Ferry at Tarpon Bend. This campsite 18 years later grows to become Fort Lauderdale. (1)



Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad opens to Miami, linking the entire Florida east coast. (2) Broward is considered a watery wasteland with much of its land in the glades.



The first permanent Jewish settlers arrive in the Miami area.



American Jewish Year Book reports that there are five towns in Florida with one or more Jewish institutions. The estimates of the Jewish population of the state range from 2500 to 4500.



Dania (now Dania Beach) becomes the area's first incorporated community, followed by Pompano in 1908. (1)



Florida's Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward begins draining the swamps. (4)



The first known Jewish settler in Broward County: Russian immigrant Louis Brown (Braun) on a train journey from Jacksonville settles in Dania, a rural community known for its tomato farms and packing houses. He opens Brown's Department Store on Main Street (now U.S. 1). Later, he weds Sarah Sokolow of New David Sokolow joins with him in business...David weds Gussie Rubinstein. (2a)



A former campsite, the Pioneer Village of Fort Lauderdale, population 250, is incorporated as a town. (2)



Dixie Highway, the only road to Miami, is widened from a 7-foot trail to 12 feet. (2) The first national motor road uniting north and south, it spurs the improvement and development of communities up and down its length. (Henry Ford introduced his low-priced, highly-efficient Model T in 1908.)



The Ft. Lauderdale Ice & Electric Company provides the first electrical output and the Ft. Lauderdale telephone company begins its existence. (2)



Broward County, named after former Florida governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, is created from portions of Dade and Palm Beach counties. (1)



About 55 Jews live in Miami. (5)



The first known Jewish wedding in the Miami community in 1913 is that of Max Lehrman and Rose Seitlin. In 1916, with daughters Nell (b. 1914) and Anne (b. 1915), they settle in Ft. Lauderdale and open a dry-goods store. Their children Sarah (b. 1918) and Abe (b. 1919) are the first known Jewish children born in Broward County. (5)



Max Lehrman opens dry-goods shop in one room, the following year expands to second room. (6)



The United States declares war on Germany (April 6th) and her allies and enters a conflict (WWI) that has raged since August 1914.



World War I Draft Registration for Broward County lists three Jewish residents—Louis Brown b. 1886, Max Lehrman b. 1882 and Dave Sokolow b. 1896.



When the Miami area's Jewish population was first listed in the American Jewish Year Book for 1917, the figure was 175. (3)



Las Olas bridge opens, allowing cars access to the beach. (2)



The City of Fort Lauderdale purchases Evergreen Cemetery (Fort Lauderdale's oldest intact cemetery, estab. 1910), burial place for early residents of Fort Lauderdale.



In the first Fort Lauderdale City Directory, there is only 1 Jewish business listing in town—Lehrman Max and Rosa, Free and Lehrman, on Andrews Avenue North under classification Clothing, with shop at their home. (7)



Broward County population 5,135. (70a)



[Max] Lehrman's Department Store advertises dry goods, clothing, millinery, etc. and the opening of a dressmaking department in his store on Andrews Ave. He hires Miss Mims of Burdine & Quartermaster Store at Miami as manager. (6)



Temple Israel becomes the first synagogue in Palm Beach County. Real estate boom draws inhabitants. When Brooklyn native Moe Katz, arrives to sell real estate, there are 7 (?) Jewish families in Fort Lauderdale. (8)



Moe Katz buys building on Brickell Avenue. Brother Mack opens (Oct. 11th) Ft. Lauderdale's first woman's clothing store, "Mack's Ladies Shop," on the lower floor, while Moe opens real estate office upstairs. Moe later receives the first real estate license ever to be issued in the State of Florida. (8,9)



The Robbins family settles in Fort Lauderdale. There are 5 (?) Jewish families in the area and they all know each other. Downtown Jewish merchants now include Robbins Men's Store (Archie and Molly), The Ft. Lauderdale Shoe Store (Abe and Mollie Newman), Mack's Ladies Shop (Mack and Sadye Katz) and Estelle's (Dave and Estelle Blume), "The finest dress shop in town." (10)