"It's something I've lived with on a day-to-day basis. It was not new to me," notes attorney Burnett Roth, referring to the reaction he had when he first saw the exhibition "The Art of Hatred: Images of Intolerance in Florida Culture," currently on display at the Sanford L. Ziff Jewish Museum of Florida. Eighty-nine-year-old Roth is describing his thoughts about items from his prodigious personal collection, many of which appear in the show, but he also could use those words to depict the tense atmosphere in Miami when he moved here from Orlando shortly after World War II. Those were the days of open discrimination, when hotels blatantly displayed signs banning Jews from their premises and blacks were only welcome on the Beach as workers, not as overnight guests.
Working against discrimination, Roth served as a Miami Beach city councilman for two years and as vice mayor for four years during the Fifties. His extraordinary memory for events has led him to pen a book about his experiences. His passion for collecting, particularly newspaper articles that document major events dating back 70 years, has resulted in his amassing more than a million pieces. He has made large donations to the national archives of the Anti-Defamation League (part of the group since 1931, he's its longest-serving member) and will bequeath part of his collection to the Ziff museum, where he sits on its board of directors.
Along with locals Seth Bramson and Dr. Paul Drucker, Roth will participate in the program Florida Jewish Collectors Discuss the Art of Hatred this Thursday. As a lifelong crusader for equal rights, it's something he's glad to do, as was lending his items for what he considers one of the museum's most important exhibitions. "This points out the ways in which there has been hatred directed against Jews and blacks and other groups," Roth says. "And this exhibit shows how unhealthy and un-American, and undemocratic, and un-everything is the hatred."