Why are Jews attracted to Florida?

Why are Jews attracted to this place? A better question might be: How the hell did we end up in the Middle East?!

The Trump National Doral golf resort is shown in Doral, Florida, U.S., March 18, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Trump National Doral golf resort is shown in Doral, Florida, U.S., March 18, 2019
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As I write this, headline news in the US – finally giving both COVID-19 and Donald Trump a much needed respite – is the weather, wreaking havoc throughout almost every corner of the country. A massive winter storm slammed 150 million people, leaving many without power in record-breaking low temperatures crashing into one another on ice glazed highways.
As this massive, historic winter storm grips the nation with dangerously heavy snowfall, freezing rain and piercing wind chills, I am faced with serious problems of my own: How can I find a spot on the beach that isn’t overrun with an influx of yahoos? How fast can I eat this Popsicle before it melts in the scorching heat? What did I do with the damn sunscreen? I don’t mean to rub it in (until I find the sunscreen), but yes, I am currently living in that little slice of heaven known as Florida, that corner of North America that nobody messes with, not even God. Pandemic? What you talkin’ ‘bout? We’re open for business! Freak weather? Nothing freaky here but us folk!
Now if you’re asking yourself why a Canadian writer for The Jerusalem Post is dedicating a column to the Sunshine State, you obviously haven’t been here. I might even have to call your Jewish identity into question. We OWN this place. OK, that’s not exactly true. We only own the section from Palm Beach down to Miami. And, most of us are renting. But still, try getting a table at a kosher restaurant during “Yeshiva Week” (a misnomer if ever there was one; more like six weeks) or watching frum couples with baby strollers vying for sidewalk space with tattooed, bikini-clad roller skaters and you’ll get the picture.
This is my third full winter here keeping an eye on my 89-year-old New York State mother at her condo. So I guess I now qualify as an official, card-carrying “snowbird.” And like many part-time residents – Canadians especially, who are perhaps a bit more accustomed to civility and sanity than many Americans – I have a love/hate relationship with the place. Here, then, is my mid-season paean to my homeland away from home.
F IS FOR Food, the way to every Jew’s heart (attack). Never – outside of Jerusalem and Brooklyn – have I seen such a concentration of kosher eateries, or such a variety of kosher products lining supermarket shelves.
L is for Loud. Along with Jews – and near deaf old people and new condo construction and bad music coming out of beach boom boxes, and argumentative Republicans – comes noise. Lots of it, all day long.
O is for the Ocean, which along with...
R for Rays – as in “catching some” – is really the primary reason this place is such a magnet for the rest of the world. Even ultra-Orthodox Jews can’t get enough of the beach. Shoulder length peyot (side curls), ankle-length skirts and (soggy) tzitzit (ritual fringes) can be seen both on land and in the water.
I is for Independence. I’m convinced that if the state could, it would secede from the union. Anything goes, and no one is gonna tell a Floridian – or their chosen leaders – what to do. The license plates here only say “Sunshine State” because “Live Free or Die” was already taken by New Hampshire.
D is for Diversity. I have to say, given how racist, antisemitic and ageist this place has the potential to be, it is surprisingly the most successful example of the “melting pot” that I have seen in this country. Young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, born-again Christian, LGBTQ, right-wing Congress-attacking nut job, left-wing tree-hugging space cadet – all coexist in relative peace and harmony. And all are equally likely to be beaten, stabbed, robbed, shot or involved in a massive collision on I-95.
A is for Adventure. And though I could be talking about that other “a” word, activities, which abound here – like kayaking along the Intracoastal Waterway, deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic or hiking through the Everglades – I’m really referring to that great, capital-A Adventure that is living in this place. You never know what crazy thing is going to happen, what “Florida Man” (I urge you to Google that if you don’t know the definition) is going to do next. The Wild West has nothing on this place.
So let’s recap: Florida is a place by the sea with beautiful weather, an incredibly diverse mix of argumentative people (and corrupt politicians), where anything can happen and danger is lurking around every corner – upon which sits a kosher restaurant.
Hmm, does that remind you of anywhere else?
Why are Jews attracted to this place? A better question might be: How the hell did we end up in the Middle East?! 
Ken Gruber is a Toronto-based writer and can be reached at [email protected]