Shtetl in the Sun: Andy Sweet’s South Beach 1977-1980
Shtetl in the Sun celebrates the work of Andy Sweet, a dynamic young photographer in the late 1970s, and his images of Jewish life in South Beach, Florida. In the late 1970s, more than 20,000 elderly Jews, many of them New York transplants and Holocaust Survivors, called South Beach home. This area of barely two square miles had become a modern-day shtetl, reminiscent of the tightly knit, predominantly Jewish Pre-World War II Eastern European villages.
Sweet’s photographs capture the liveliness of this “shtetl in the sun,” their interactions with one another, day-to-day activities, Zionist gatherings, outdoor Jewish services, and the hustle and bustle of a vibrant, energetic populace. They dispel the stereotype of 1970s South Beach being “God’s Waiting Room.” Instead, we see an array of daily activities on the sand and in the sun, as well as in cafeterias, delis, and the constant flow of parties that filled the neighborhood. The lightheartedness, bright colors, and geniality of the people Sweet photographed illustrate the ways Survivors lived full and joyful lives after the Holocaust.
Today, Andy’s photographs are more than a documentary record. They are a tribute to the people who lived and played there during that time, perfectly encapsulating the lively spirit that shaped their community. The exhibition offers a spot of brightness in an otherwise tragic history, proving that people can overcome trauma to forge a future for themselves and their community.
Shtetl in the Sun: Andy Sweet’s South Beach 1977-1980 is a project of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU and Andy Sweet Photo Legacy.