Jews from Turkey incorporate Congregation Bikur Holim, Sephardic in 1910.

  • By Lee Micklin
  • Posted 11/02/1998
  • Essay 132
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In 1910, Jews from Marmara and Tekirdag, Turkey, incorporate Congregation Bikur Holim, Sephardic. The congregation purchases the former Ashkenazic Bikur Cholim synagogue on 13th Avenue and Washington Street. Today (2004) Sephardic Bikur Holim follows the traditions and customs brought from Turkey by its founders more than 80 years ago.

After Jews from Marmara and Tekirdag, Turkey, incorporated Congregation Bikur Holim, Sephardic, they purchased (in 1911) two Sefer Torahs (Torah Scrolls) from Palestine, the next step in establishing a congregation.

Now, a home of their own was in order. The Ashkenazic Bikur Cholim was about to be vacated and sold, as they moved to their new building at 17th Avenue S and Yesler Way. The Sephardic group seized the opportunity to buy the original synagogue on 13th Avenue and Washington Street. Those from Tekirdag (Rodesto) put up the funds.

At the time Bikur Cholim was purchased, there was something of a rift between the Rodesto group and the Maramara group. "This separation was caused more by personal feelings between individuals rather than any conflict over the liturgy or customs" (Adatto, p. 72).

The Marmara group, made up of individuals who were among the earliest Sephardim to arrive in Seattle, broke off and formed Congregation Ahavath Ahim (Congregation of Brotherly Love). They rented public halls for services until they built their own synagogue at 17th Avenue E and E Fir Street in 1922.

Those from Tekirdag (Rodosto) established their own synagogue: The old Ashkenazic Bikur Cholim became Sephardic Bikur Holim. The congregation organized a Sephardic Talmud Torah (after-school Hebrew education).

Rabbi Solomon Azose was the congregation's first rabbi, serving as schohet (ritual slaughterer), cantor, and mohel (one who performs circumcision) until his death in 1919. His brother, Rabbi Isaac Azose, took over until 1924. Rabbi Abraham Maimon, the rabbi of the Tekirdag Sephardim in Turkey, was brought to Seattle where his strong leadership brought many Tekirdag who were assimilating back into the fold as practicing Jews.

Rabbi Maimon died in 1931 and Rabbi Isaac Azose was called to lead the congregation again. Reverend Samuel Benaroya, a Turkish citizen, was brought from Geneva, Switzerland, to be the synagogue's cantor. He served in many other capacities as well, such as bookkeeper and teacher.

In 1944, Solomon Maimon, son of Rabbi Abraham Maimon, became the first American Sephardic Jew to receive rabbinic ordination in this country. Along with Bikur Holim's Rabbi Wohlgelernter, he was instrumental in organizing the first all day religious school in Seattle, Seattle Hebrew Academy.

In 1965, Sephardic Bikur Holim purchased land and built a new synagogue at 6500 52nd Avenue S in Seward Park. In the 1990s, Sephardic Bikur Holim was led by Rabbi Simon Benzaquen, who was born and raised in Spain, and educated and rabbinically ordained in England.


Albert Adatto, "Sephardim and the Seattle Sephardic Community," (M.A. thesis, University of Washington, 1939); Lorraine Sidell, "Historically Speaking: Sephardic Jews of Seattle," Part II Nizcor: Washington State Jewish Historical Society Newsletter , March 1992.
Note: This essay was corrected on April 23, 2014.

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