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No Jews. No Coloreds. No Dogs.

It’s the 1950s and Miami businessman Tootsie Plotnik counts his Bahamian mistress and black business associates among his dearest friends. Yet this is the same man who refers to his African American employees as schvartzes, a derogatory Yiddish term, and comes within inches of murdering an unarmed black teenager.

Still Missing Beulah: Stories of Black and Jews in Mid-Century Miami takes the reader into the heart and mind of an aging Jewish businessman whose prejudices are challenged by the black people who enter his life. Written in the same vein as The Help, this award-winning collection of interlinked short stories documents the struggles Miami’s Je ws and blacks faced during an era when both groups experience rampant discrimination and signs prohibiting blacks and Jews in hotels and clubs were as rampant as palm trees and mosquitoes. Each story is accompanied by a brief historical account of black or Jewish intolerance that illuminates that story.

PRAISE FOR STILL MISSING BEULAH

The compelling characters and stories . . . take readers on a captivating ride through the past while revealing what life was like for blacks and Jews during this era.
DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA
Miami-Dade Commissioner

. . . a great read. You can't help but become caught up in the dynamic tongue-in cheek dialogue that drives this unusual but loving father-daughter relationship.
STEVEN M. FORMAN
Author – Boca Knights, Boca Mournings, Boca Daze, Eddie the Kid

The stories in this collection are beautifully-written and touching and well worth the hour or two it takes to get lost in Tootsie's and Rebecca's world.
DEBORAH SHLIAN
Florida Book Award Gold Medalist
Author — Rabbit in the Moon, Wednesday's Child, Double Illusion

In the News





Q&A on Still Missing Beulah

1. What inspired you to compile this collection of historical short stories and essays?

After reading The Help, which reminded me of experiences I had growing up in Coral Gables, a primarily White Anglo Saxon Protestant enclave at the time, I decided to write a short story based on my younger sister’s relationship with the Black nanny who helped raise us. That became the title story, Still Missing Beulah. Writing that piece brought back other memories of growing up in Miami during an era of segregation and anti-Semitism. Those memories, in turn, served as the framework for the other stories.

2. What do you hope to achieve through this book?

Most of the stories take place from 1940 and 1980, before South Beach became “hot” and “Miami Vice” put the city on the map as a sophisticated international crossroads. I liked the idea of exposing new Floridians and fans of Miami to the steamy underbelly of the neon city, a place where blacks and Jews were prohibited from entering clubs and restaurants and where African American, Hispanic and Anglo animosity led to almost of a decade of street riots.

3. Have the rifts between the Black and Jewish communities been healed?

Rather than healing, I think the tensions between blacks and Jews have faded as segregation and anti-Semitism have waned and gone underground. Many of Miami’s civil rights heroes—black, Jewish and Anglo—have died and relations between most of the warring communities have vastly improved.

4. What do you see as the parallels between Jews and African Americans in the South?

In a sense, the parallels between Blacks and Jews go back thousands of years to the enslavement of Jews in Egypt. During the mid-century, Jews and Blacks worked together to form such groups as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an activist organization formed during the civil rights era. Sadly, many Jews—especially those who lived in southern cities such as Miami (and it was very southern at one time)—feared their own tenuous security might be imperiled by coming out openly for civil rights. But many rabbis and Jews were out there marching (and dying) in Selma, Birmingham, and Miami.

5. How have readers reacted to the book so far?

Many people have reacted by commenting on Amazon and elsewhere about their own experiences with prejudice against Jews and Blacks. One man wrote of his mother’s refusal to join Junior League when she learned blacks were banned while several women identified strongly with the protagonist in Still Missing Beulah, writing of their own relationships with African American nannies. Though the focus of the book is Black and Jewish relations, many readers related to the conflicted father-daughter relationship I used as a vehicle for telling the stories. Everyone seems to love the historical essays about Black and Jewish Miami.

7. Is there a central message you’d like readers to take away from the book?

I’d like readers to remember the past because the same bigotry that plagued people mid-century Miami festers under the surface for many individuals who were raised in the South. Despite our best efforts, many of us find ourselves struggling against these deep-seated prejudices.