At a festive gathering Monday evening in Miami Beach, guests celebrated the union of two partners who have vowed to protect a precious legacy and ensure that it flourishes.
“It’s like we’re coming to the huppa with the two children that Jimmy Orovitz nurtured,’’ said Marcia Zerevitz, founding director of the Jewish Museum of Florida, likening the museum and Florida International University to a couple under the Jewish wedding canopy.
The institution, housed in two historic Art Deco buildings on Washington Avenue, will now be called the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.
Orovitz served on the original boards of both. When the school and the museum announced a partnership in July, “he was so excited at even the hope that we could be part of FIU,’’ Zerevitz said. “It’s such a pity that he won’t be there’’ to celebrate.
Warren James Orovitz, a Miami native born July 17, 1936, died Saturday at his home in the Deering Bay section of Coral Gables. The real-estate developer, 76, battled both Parkinson’s disease and “five kinds of cancer,’’ according to son Robert Orovitz, a Miami attorney.
The Orovitz name, among the most recognizable in the Miami-Dade Jewish community, adorns the Mount Sinai Medical Center emergency department, a tribute to Jimmy and Michael’s parents, Ruth and Max Orovitz. They were among the founders, in the 1940s, of the original Mount Sinai Hospital.
Jimmy, who served 45 years on the medical center’s board, “was keeper of the scrapbooks — keeper of all the records of my father’s endeavors,’’ said his brother Michael Orovitz.
It was concern for those records that brought Jimmy Orovitz to the fledgling museum in the 1980s, said Zerevitz. He became founding president of MOSAIC, which evolved into the museum.
“He had this stash of photos and documents that his father had, and his father was a mega-star’’ who helped finance the clandestine, post-World War II entry of Holocaust survivors into the future state of Israel, through the British blockade.
Jimmy Orovitz “truly loved Mount Sinai,’’ said Steve Sonenreich, the hospital’s president/CEO. “What he brought to the board was a very diligent approach to planning and building,’’ particularly interested in the finance and building-and-grounds committees.
“He was very careful individual, and he wanted to make sure Mount Sinai was true to its mission...It was a significant component of his philanthropic commitment to the community.’’
When he became board chairman in 1991, Orovitz told The Miami Herald that his goals included building a new operating-room wing of 16 suites and a cardiac catheterization laboratory.
Jimmy Orovitz, an avid fisherman and card player, graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School in 1954. His family owned one of the original Stiltsville houses in Biscayne Bay, where they spent summers to avoid the polio epidemic.
In 1958, he graduated from Dartmouth College and married the former Nancy Bloom, of West Virginia. He began his real estate career at General Development Corp., then supervised the Eagle Army Navy Store’s Florida operation outside of Miami-Dade and Broward.
He went out on his own in 1969, eventually developing commercial properties, including small warehouses near Miami International Airport, strip shopping centers and office buildings.