10.14 Miami Beach, Florida
Temple Beth Raphael, 1545 Jefferson Avenue
Architect unknown, 1966

Henry McGrew Printing, Kansas City, Missouri, publisher; no date; also on the back, “Photography Inc. 3109 N.W. 27th Ave,. Miami Fla.”

Temple Beth Raphael, Miami Beach, Florida. “Real Photo” postcard by Ben Shiffrin, no date. Image courtesy of the Ephemera Collection, The National Library of Israel.

This is a rare view of a synagogue that was conceived as a Holocaust memorial. Beth Raphael (House of Raphael) was founded in Miami Beach by Holocaust survivors, who initially met at 139 NW 3rd Avenue. By 1965, members had the resources and desire to erect a new building in a residential neighborhood. A simple two-story structure, it was decorated from the start to be noticeable and to remember Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Like nearby houses, the synagogue was set back slightly from the street and, because it was built on a slight rise, the fenced patio in front was accessed by both steps and a ramp. This building contained the sanctuary, and the name of the congregation was emblazoned in large letters midway up the facade. Above the horizontal course protruded five low, scalloped arches, that might be an echo of the five arched windows of the Scuola Grande Tedesca (Great German Synagogue) in Venice, Italy, another seaside town. Above these were five arches flush to the wall, within whose fields were 12 mosaic panels depicting symbols of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. The center panel displayed a mosaic of the Tablets of the Law. Unfortunately, when the synagogue was transformed into a condominium, the mosaic was destroyed.

The right half of the facade rose a story higher than the main roof, and a three-story flat wall was almost entirely covered with a large memorial mural depicting an enormous menorah over a commemorative inscription. The six lights of the menorah were built out in relief, and above these were painted six Jewish stars. Along the sides of the menorah, tablets in English and Hebrew proclaimed “Martyrs,” and below, in large letters, an inscription explained, “The Menorah Consists of Six Arms. It Is Dedicated to the Six Million Jews Men Women and Children who Perished by the Hands of Inhuman Tyrants in Europe.”

Luna del Mar condominium, the former Temple Beth Raphael, Miami Beach, Florida. Photo: Merle Shama, 2020.

Not apparent in the Rosenthall collection postcard, but visible in an undated “real photo” postcard by photographer Benjamin Shiffrin, the area beneath the menorah was filled with memorial plaques listing names of Holocaust victims and destroyed communities.

Temple Beth Raphael closed around 1992 and the building was subsequently sold. The Torah scrolls and other items were donated to the Toras Emes Academy at 11th Street and Alton Road. The former Beth Raphael has been entirely remodeled as the Luna Mar Condominium and no trace of its Jewish history except the scalloped arches, is visible today.