Tag Archives: Florida

Jew of the Week: Aaron Rajman

In Memory of “the Matzah Brawler”

Aaron Rajman (1992-2017) was born in the Bronx to an observant Jewish family. When he was four years old, the family moved to Florida. In his teen years, Rajman got involved with a bad crowd and struggled in his personal life. However, he soon got back onto the right path by returning to his religious roots, and taking up mixed martial arts. Rajman joined the American Top Team gym, one of the premier MMA training facilities in the US. He started racking up amateur wins, and earned six different titles before turning pro. His overall record was an impressive 21 wins to 4 losses. Despite his success in the ring, Rajman did not abandon his faith, making sure to keep the Sabbath and stay kosher. He was nicknamed “the Matzah Brawler”. Rajman was also an avid cook, and regularly hosted friends and family for Shabbat meals. In his spare time, he taught self defense in his community, and instructed local police officers in Krav Maga. After his father passed away from cancer, Rajman fought a number of charity bouts, donating the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. Earlier this week, Rajman was recovering from a leg injury when a group of thugs broke in to his home and fatally shot him. It was just a week after his twenty-fifth birthday. His community in West Boca Raton remembers him as a “sensitive, caring and kindhearted soul.” Donations to his burial fund can be made here.

Words of the Week

Our mission on earth is to recognize the void – inside and outside of us – and fill it.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Jews of the Week: Moses Levy and David Levy Yulee

The Abolition of Slavery and the First Jewish Senator 

David Levy Yulee

David Levy Yulee

Moshe Eliyahu Levy Yulee (1782-1854) was born in Morocco to a wealthy Sephardic Jewish family. His father was a prominent figure in the Ottoman Empire, and an adviser to the Sultan. Moshe went off on his own across the Atlantic, settling in the US Virgin Islands, and dropping the family name of “Yulee”, now going by Moses Elias Levy. He made his own fortune in the lumber and merchant trades, then moved the whole family to Florida. There, he purchased 100,000 acres of land and established it as a refuge for persecuted European Jews. He also planned for a 50,000 acre “New Jerusalem” in Florida. Levy has been described as a “proto-Zionist”, as he sought to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Israel long before the official Zionist movement began. Though he originally owned slaves, Levy soon joined the anti-slavery movement, and in 1828 published the popular treatise A Plan For the Abolition of Slavery. Levy’s work was instrumental in abolishing slavery in both the United States and across the British Empire. In 1835, Levy’s fortunes soured with the outbreak of the Second Seminole War, which devastated his land in Florida, destroyed the refuge, and strained his finances. In poor health, Levy retired to St. Augustine, Florida, where he slowly rebuilt his wealth.

His son, David Levy Yulee (1810-1886) was elected to the House of Representatives in 1841. When Florida became a state in 1845, he became the first Jew in the US Senate. The following year, he married into a prominent Kentucky family, and to do so, had to convert to Christianity. Though he only did this in name at the request of his wife, the move drove a wedge between David and his father, and the two became permanently estranged. After failing to win re-election in 1850, David turned to business, first opening a sugar plantation, and then spearheading the construction of railroads across Florida. Yulee returned to the Senate in 1855, after his father’s death. When the Civil War began, he joined the Confederates, for which he was imprisoned following the war. After being released, Yulee continued his railroad ventures, and went on to be nicknamed the “Father of Florida Railroads”. The town of Yulee and Yulee County in Florida are named after him, and he was selected as one of the “Greatest Floridians” in 2000.

Words of the Week

You are not as great as you think, and the world is not as bad as it seems.
– Rabbi Wolf of Strikov