Yiddish Book Center, Exhibit
January 3 - February 18
A Shtetl in the Sun, featuring photographs of Jewish Miami Beach in the late 1970s taken by the American photographer Andy Sweet, is on exhibit at the Yiddish Book Center.
Upwards of 20,000 elderly Jews made up nearly half the population of Florida’s South Beach community in the late 1970s—all crowded into an area of barely two square miles like a modern-day shtetl, the small, tightly knit Eastern European villages that defined so much of pre-World War II Jewry. As journalist Brett Sokol, editor of a book about Sweet and his work, notes, “these New York transplants and Holocaust survivors all still had plenty of living, laughing, and loving to do.” This is strikingly portrayed in A Shtetl in the Sun,which features previously unseen photographs documenting South Beach’s once-thriving and now-vanished Jewish world—a project that Andy Sweet (1953–82) began in 1977 after receiving his MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and which remained a driving passion until his tragic death.
“They were strong, humorous, and beautiful images,” fellow photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who worked closely with Sweet, remarked after his passing. “He may have been younger, but I considered him every bit an equal.”
Sweet’s iconic, colorful photos capture the community’s daily rhythms in all their beach-strolling, cafeteria-noshing, and klezmer-dancing glory. “The lost Jewish Miami Beach of Andy Sweet’s work is illustrated in precise small detail, like all great narratives, and in the individual faces of the oldsters we are looking at from our places in the future,” writes Florida author Lauren Groff.
A Shtetl in the Sun is on view in the Yiddish Book Center’s Brechner Gallery through March 2020.