Abraham D. Lavender in Jerusalem, May 2006

Abraham D. Lavender (born 1940) is a professor of Sociology at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, where his special areas of interest include ethnic relations, Judaica, political sociology, urban sociology, the sociology of sexuality, and social deviance. He is Editor in Chief of the 'Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto Jews',[1][2] and is past president of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies. He has previously been a professor of sociology at St. Mary's College in Maryland, and at the University of Miami. He has taught at FIU since 1990.

Early life, education, and career

Born in New Zion, South Carolina, Lavender's formal education started at Salem Elementary School in that town, and he graduated from East Clarendon High School in Turbeville, South Carolina. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in psychology from the University of South Carolina at Columbia,[3] in 1963 and 1965 respectively. While at USC, he was a member of Phi Epsilon Pi (which later merged with Zeta Beta Tau) fraternity, and the AFROTC's Arnold Air Society, was president of the Hillel Foundation, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He served from 1964 to 1968 in the United States Air Force and completed his service as a Captain, serving at Whiteman Air Force Base in Warrensburg, Missouri, where he was a Personnel Casualty Officer,[3] and in Izmir, Turkey, as part of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Academic career

After completing his military service, Lavender began his doctoral studies and earned a Ph.D. in sociology in 1972 from the University of Maryland, College Park,[4][3] with a doctoral dissertation on generational changes in Jewish identity.

Abraham Lavender

A prolific author, Lavender "has written dozens of books and academic articles, mostly about ethnicity and Sephardic Jews",[2] as well as other scholarly publications including journal articles, reference book/encyclopedia articles, book reviews, or research reports, on a wide variety of sociology-related topics. In addition to his books listed below, among his major publications linking multiple areas of interest (Jews, Latins, ethnicity, political sociology) are "A History of Jewish and Hispanic Interaction in Miami-Dade County" (published by the American Jewish Committee) and "Jews, Hispanics, Blacks, and Others in Miami Beach: An Ethnically Divided City or a Cosmopolitan Multiethnic City?" (a monograph published by the Institute for Public Policy and Citizenship Studies at Florida International University) to which the answer is "Cosmopolitan Multiethnic City." In 1977, Lavender published a collection of studies on non-mainstream Jewish people in the United States titled A Coat of Many Colors.[5] As of 2014[update], he was completing a seventh book, "Early Social Life in Miami Beach: From Mangroves and Mosquitoes to Mansions and Millionaires". He also was selected to write the article on "Judaism" for the "Encyclopedia of Sociology", and to write seven articles on the relationship between anthropology and DNA for the "Encyclopedia of Anthropology". Lavender "has argued that since Sephardic Jews constitute a separate group, they should be granted the same attention bestowed on other ethnic groups".[6]

On six occasions Lavender has been honored (Distinguished Citizen Award, Key to the City, Certificate of Appreciation) for his civic activities in Miami Beach. Lavender also has close ties to Charleston, South Carolina, his "second home," where he has lived part-time, has many relatives and friends, visits frequently, has been a speaker at the historic (founded in the 1740s) Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim Synagogue, has conducted extensive research at the Huguenot Society, and was involved with the International Huguenot Conference held in Charleston in 1997.

Civic and political activities

Lavender also has been active in civic and political affairs, serving as advisor to Miami Beach mayor, Seymour Gelber, serving as vice-chair and Commissioner of the Miami Beach Housing Authority, chairing the city's Homeless Committee, and serving as a member of the city's Safety Committee.[3] He served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Miami, and has conducted extensive genealogical research. An academic and personal area of interest, used in genealogical and historical research, is DNA. His strongest personal genetic matches are in Spain, especially among the chuetas (Marranos) of the island of Mallorca. His direct paternal ancestor, Benjamin Lavender, settled in the Sumter, Turbeville, New Zion areas of South Carolina c. 1790, and among Lavender's recent presentations is “Where in the World are Benjamin Lavender’s Distant Male Cousins?” (“¿Donde Están en el Mundo los Primos Distantes de Benjamin Lavenda?”), presented in Turbeville, S.C., in August 2010. With thirteen Y-chromosome markers, the answers are, in order, Italy (especially Marche); Cologne, Germany; Central Portugal; the United States (4 European background, 2 Hispanic background, and 1 African background), Brazil (especially Rio Grande Do Sul), and Warsaw, Poland.

Lavender is also a frequent speaker to academic, civic, and genealogical groups, with frequent presentations about the Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal, and their descendants in North America and South America. Recent presentations have included "The Secret Jews of Brazil." Other favorite topics include Miami Beach history, political behavior, and DNA, and recent presentations include "The Secret Society of Moses according to Flavio Barbiero." His academic visits have included Portugal, Spain, and Israel.


Lavender is president of the Miami Beach Historical Association and president of the South Florida Association of Phi Beta Kappa. He is a member of Temple Beth Tov in West Miami, and is president of the Men's Club. He is a member of Hibiscus Lodge #275 of F. & A. M., and a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Freemason. He has been a member of Mensa, and the board of directors of the Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He is a life member of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States.

Books published

  • Miami Beach in 1920: The Making of a Winter Resort. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
  • Black Communities in Transition: Voices from South Florida. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1996 (edited, with Adele S. Newson).
  • Jewish Farmers of the Catskills: A Century of Survival. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1995 (with Clarence Steinberg).[7][8]
  • French Huguenots: From Mediterranean Catholics to White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. New York, Bern: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 1990.
  • Ethnic Women and Feminist Values: Toward a 'New' Value System. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1986.
  • A Coat of Many Colors: Jewish Subcommunities in the United States. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977 (edited).


  1. ^ Journal of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews (JOSPIC-J)
  2. ^ a b Ana Veciana-Suarez, "A Return to Jewish Roots for Descendants of Hispanic Catholics", The Miami Herald (January 7, 2015).
  3. ^ a b c d Florida International University biography of Abraham D. Lavender.
  4. ^ "Journal for the Study of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry". 
  5. ^ Marshall Sklare, Understanding American Jewry (1982), p. 67.
  6. ^ Aviva Ben-Ur, Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History (2009), p. 4.
  7. ^ Michael Hoberman, How Strange it Seems: The Cultural Life of Jews in Small-town New England (2008), p. 75: "Abraham Lavender and Clarence Steinberg, authors of Jewish Farmers of the Catskills, recount the experience of one upstate New York farmer, Morton Shimm, who articulated the case for integration".
  8. ^ Phil Brown, Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area (2003), p. 32: "In Jewish Farmers of the Catskills, Abraham Lavender and Clarence Steinberg describe the magnitude of Jewish farming in the region".