Ohaveth Sholum Congregation, Seattle's first Jewish congregation, is established on July 25, 1889.

  • By Lee Micklin
  • Posted 10/30/1998
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 98
On July 25, 1889, Ohaveth Sholum Congregation, Seattle's first Jewish congregation, is established in time for the High Holiday services that year. (Alternate spellings are Ohaveth Shalem and Ohaveth Shalom.) One month later, about 100 worshippers attend the congregation's first service on Erev Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which occurs on September 25, 1889.

Ohaveth Sholum Congregation initially gathered in Wickstrom Hall, on the corner of 8th Avenue and Columbia Street. Three meetings preceded the High Holiday gatherings. Sigismund Aronson, secretary-treasurer of Schwabacher Brothers, Seattle's leading wholesale firm, was elected president.

In 1892 Ohaveth Sholum built a synagogue at 8th Avenue and Seneca Street. Membership of Ohaveth Sholum consisted mainly of established German and Polish immigrants who had already spent several decades in the American West. These Jews knew the difficulties of maintaining an observant Jewish existence and were comfortable with the introduction of various reforms.

They used the Reform movement's prayerbook, Minhag America in the services. Other Reform influences included the use of both English and Hebrew, mixed-sex seating, and the introduction of the organ (patterned after San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El). Holidays were observed for one rather than two (traditional) days.

In 1889 Ohaveth Sholum purchased a cemetery grounds on the north side of Queen Anne Hill. Due to financial difficulties and lack of a single focus in a membership divided by reform and traditional preferences, Ohaveth Sholum disbanded in 1895. Temple de Hirsch purchased the cemetery grounds in 1910.

Sources: Howard Droker, "Ohaveth Shalom, Seattle's First Jewish Congregation," Western States Jewish History , October 1982.

Related Topics:   Firsts | Jews in Washington | Religion

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