Stitching History From the Holocaust

An original exhibit created by and on loan from Jewish Museum Milwaukee

On display December 19, 2016 – March 19, 2017 at Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

The captivating story of the dresses that make up this exhibition began decades ago, with a family divided between two continents and two destinies…

In the winter of 1939, Paul Strnad, who was living in Prague, wrote to his cousin Alvin in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to obtain an affidavit to help him and his wife Hedwig escape the onslaught of Nazi Germany. Paul sent Alvin sketches of Hedwig’s clothing designs, in the hopes that these examples of her work would provide evidence of their financial independence. Despite Alvin’s best efforts to obtain visas for the couple, Paul and Hedy perished in the Holocaust.

Years later, the sketches were discovered by Alvin’s family members, and, thanks to the efforts of the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Hedy’s drawings were brought to life. Her designs were the height of fashion for 1939, but the clothing also provides a small, yet telling window into the lives of Jews in Prague on the eve of World War II. They also attest to the dynamism of the Prague fashion industry before the Holocaust and reflect the styles of designers in the fashion centers of Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

These eight dresses, recreated from Hedy’s sketches, serve to recreate Hedy’s life, but they also reveal another significant story. Along with the loss of six million Jewish lives, the Holocaust extinguished an incalculable amount of talent and creativity. As the New York Times review of this award-winning exhibit states, “The fashions are both text and textile, a story of life and death told in fabric.”

Local Exhibition Sponsors include: Funding Arts Network, Robert Arthur Segall Foundation, Elliot Stone and Bonnie Sockel Stone, Kenneth and Barbara Bloom.

HOT COUTURE: Florida Jewish on the Fashion Scene

An original exhibition created by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

On display December 19, 2016 – November 5, 2017 at Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

Jews have played a dominant role in the American fashion industry from the late 1800s, when waves of European immigrants fled persecution and pogroms, often bringing with them only the clothes on their backs and their trades. While these immigrants became known for shaping the New York garment industry, many people will be surprised to learn that Jews who settled in Florida have been involved in clothing related businesses in our state also since that time.

Floridian Jews have left an indelible footprint on this industry, from the pioneering “mom and pop” retailers and department stores that started more than 100 years ago, to designers who brought the likes of Frank Sinatra and Zsa Zsa Gabor flocking to their stores in the 1950s,to fashion trends such as the guayabera shirts, influenced by the exodus from Cuban in the 1960s, to today’s entrepreneurs using the most modern technologies and materials to create the latest fashions.

 Hot Couture: Florida Jews on the Fashion Scene spans the spectrum from designing and manufacturing to dressing and influencing the local and international scene in all types of clothing from beachwear to ball gowns. The exhibition includes women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry, handbags and notions to ancillary services such as fashion photography, law, advertising and design labs. Featuring everything from iconic brands to unique wearable art, bikinis and belts made out of local snakeskins, climate-influenced golf shirts and stay-dry fabrics and even Florida furs, this exhibition explores the inspiration and tradition that has guided the creative forces behind Florida’s fashion industry for generations and the pride and craftsmanship that defines them.

Exhibition Sponsors include: Perry Ellis International, Robert Arthur Segall Foundation, Elliot Stone and Bonnie Sockel Stone, Kenneth and Barbara Bloom, Marla Schaefer & Family, Olem Shoe Corp., Civie & Earl Pertnoy Family Foundation, Abby Schaefer, Varat & Singer Families, Merle & Dan Weiss, Isabel Bernfeld Anderson, Saks Fifth Avenue

JMOF-FIU will host a series of fashion-related programs and activities throughout this year long exhibition. Check the museum’s website for details:

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

– a historic partnership that leverages the resources of the museum and Florida International University, has ignited a new era of interdisciplinary education and research focused on the history of the Jewish experience in Florida, the ways in which Florida Jews influence and are influenced by the cultural dynamics of Florida, the nation, and the world, and issues of discrimination against all peoples in Florida throughout history. The museum’s historical collections, research library, endowment, and other assets will augment an academic plan that focuses on the museum’s and FIU’s shared missions of education, research and outreach. A key component of the academic plan for the JMOF-FIU is the relocation of a variety of programs, including the Jewish Studies Certificate Program, to the museum’s facilities. The plan also includes the expansion of academic programs and research endeavors designed to educate FIU students, faculty, and the greater South Florida community about the challenges of the immigrant experiences shared by all ethnicities in the state of Florida.

In honor of our 20th Anniversary we present this video in conjunction with our theme “Vision 20/20.” Commemorating our first 20 years and looking forward to the future!