Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s become an unnerving task to read or watch the daily news. We turn to the front page or click on a news site with foreboding. The stories are often filled with horrific content. Terrorism and violence are rampant.

China prepares to use force to end protests for Hong Kong democracy. Putin proceeds unchecked in his land grabs. Ebola looms. U.S. borders are overrun.


ISIS beheadings have become so common that they have lost their shock value. Iran marches forward in its nuclear quest. The Taliban continues its deadly ambushes in Afghanistan. Kobani teeters on the verge of destruction as Turkey views the mayhem.

The Jewish community has been especially affected by the seemingly unending stream of bad news. This summer’s Gaza war was sobering. Israel fought off thousands of rockets aimed at its innocent civilian population. Anti-Semitism, long simmering on the back burner, boiled over. Reports of anti-Jewish riots and demonstrations abounded throughout the world.

Last week, fortified with a cup of strong coffee, I sat down to read the local Miami Herald.

My eyes skimmed an article on page 1A. I was flabbergasted. I read the title again. Could it be? It had good news for the Miami Jewish community.

The headline read, “Study: Miami Jewish Population Larger, Diverse.” The piece went on to highlight the “2014 Greater Miami Jewish Federation Population Study,” a demographic exploration of the South Florida Jewish community. Remarkably, after 30 years of decline in Miami-Dade County, the Jewish population is growing again and now ranks as11th largest Jewish community in the United States.

Other findings were inspiring. The Jewish population increased overall by 9 percent. The largest increase was a 17 percent growth for those under 35. The number of Hispanic Jewish adults increased by 57 percent. Perhaps the most amazing statistic of all was that the number of those living in an Orthodox Jewish household increased by an astounding 41 percent.

The 2013 Pew Report was devastating in its findings regarding the Jewish community within the United States. The statistics and numbers for Jewish intermarriage and assimilation were astronomical. It seemed all hope was lost.

The Miami Jewish Federation’s report showed a big difference between the Pew results and that of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Population Study. Those answering the Miami survey had a three-quarter percent positive response to the question that it was “very important” to be Jewish. The overall positive response to that question on Pew was less than half. The rate of intermarriage recorded by the two surveys amounted to a stunning juxtaposition. Pew recorded a 61 percent intermarriage rate. Miami Jews were intermarried at a 16 percent rate.

Judaism is a uniquely land-based religion. Eretz Yisrael is our heritage, our homeland, and our gift from Hashem. It is also the basis of many mitzvot that can only be practiced in Israel, such as shemittah.

When the shofar blew at the conclusion of Yom Kippur we declared “Next year in Jerusalem!” It is an integral part of Jewish belief that the Jewish people from the four corners of the globe will return to their holy land and live as a nation.

For the time being, however, kol hakavod to the Jewish community in South Florida. Way to go!

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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.