Florida has an extensive population which has increased by nearly two million people, or 11.3 percent since the year 2000, taking into account a migration of 1,585,704 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 528,085 people and migration within the country produced a net increase of 1,057,619 people (Florida Demographics, 2009).
A recent census shows that Florida is among the leading states to host growth of the multiracial populace (Associated Press, 2009). Since the change to Census records in 2000, which allows participants to check more than one box for race, the latest census estimate indicates that the number of multiracial people rose to about 5.2 million, or five percent of the population (Associated Press). Millions more are believed to be unaccounted. The four states with the highest rates of multiracial people are also the states with the highest rates of immigration: California, Texas, New York, and Florida (Associated Press).
Religiously speaking, the residents of Florida are also diverse. The populace is predominantly Protestant; 54% Protestant, 19% Baptist, 6% Methodist, 4% Presbyterian, 3% Pentecostal, and 16% other Protestant. The influx of immigrants is creating a growing Roman Catholic community, 26%. Unlike other Southern states, Florida is unique because it has a large Jewish community -- the largest in the southern states (3.4 - 4% of the total population). Other religions, such as Islam, Hindu, Buddhist, and miscellaneous Christian, make up 15% of the population(Stark 2010).
Florida History: Florida's connectedness to Judaism starts early in its history. One of the largest land shifts in Florida took place between 1819 and 1921. Florida shifted from Spanish ownership to a territory of the United States, thus compelling several Spanish landholders to sell their land and leave the state. This attracted the attention of Moses Levy, a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. His family went to Morocco and from there to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. With a new interest in the newly acquired U.S. territory, Levy bought 50,000 acres south of Gainesville and moved to Florida in 1821. He hoped to establish a plantation and colony for Jewish families and named his property New Pilgrimage. He advertised in European newspapers and the first new settlers arrived in 1822. He was so successful that Levy bought additional land in Tampa and on the St. Johns River. However, the colonists did not prove as hardy as he hoped. Many died from disease and others moved north. New Pilgrimage ended up a failure. However, Moses Levy had a son, David Levy, who fared better in the state. The younger Levy (image top of page, grave and plaque below) is credited as helping transform Florida from territory to state. When Florida achieved statehood in 1845, David Levy became one of Florida’s first U.S. senators. Both Levy county and the town of Yulee (the original family name prior to expulsion from Spain) are named in his honor. (200 Quick Looks at Florida History, Clark, 124-5.)