How the Brotherhood Started
Today, the Seattle Sephardic Brotherhood is a strong organization vital to our Sephardic community's spiritual and communal health. But did you ever wonder how it all began?
Originally there, were three separate Sephardic organizations in Seattle. One was Shalom Alehem with Mr. John Calderon as its president. Then there was the Ahvath Shalom with Mr. Jacob DeLeon as president, and the Seattle Progressive Fraternity with Mr. Gordon DeLeon as president.
The Seattle Progressive Fraternity was formed to serve as a cultural organization. Its programs featured guest speakers and meetings to hear about and discuss current events. The meeting place was at the Settlement House on 17th and Jackson.
The Shalom Alehem organization served as the community's health care plan, forerunner of today's Group Health and King County Medical. The organization provided medical service for a member's entire family. The annual dues to belong were $12 a Year. Dr. Jerome Jacobs was the attending physician for the services.
Shalom Alehem also had a publication called "Progress", with Mr. Jack Almeleh as its editor. They even bought property on 24th and Washington with the hopes to someday build a community-wide Sephardic center. The Ahvath Shalom was also known as "Havurah de Huevos". They used to give its member hard boiled eggs, and membership dues were 10 cents a week.
The Ahvath Shalom bought the old cemetery at Washelli in 1927 from the Bikur Cholim Congregation. It also bought two-thirds of our new cemetery from the Machzikay Adath Congregation which was headed by Rabbi Baruch Shapiro and located on 26th and Fir.
There were many in the community at this time that felt there should be one community wide Sephardic organization. They wanted to have one synagogue, one cemetery and one Talmud Torah. However, at this time there were already two synagogues - the Ezra Bessaroth and the Sephardic Bikur Holim. The Ahvath Ahim Congregation had already merged with the Bikur Holim. In the early 1930's the Sephardic congregations brought Professor Albert Levy to Seattle from New York to head a joint Sephardic Religious School. The school was dissolved in the 1940's with Rev. David Behar and Rev. Morris Scharhon each heading up their own schools to serve the members of their respective synagogues.
Around 1938, the community received a letter from Dr. David DeSola Pool that there were families in Italy that were being sent to concentration camps, but if they had a sponsor, they could come to America. Rabbi Isadore Kahn and his family were then brought to Seattle in April, 1939, to serve as spiritual leader of both synagogues.
The system for Rabbi Kahn to serve both synagogues was unique, as he would perform one Shabbat service at the Ezra Bessaroth and the Bikur Holim would be closed that week, and perform the next week's Shabbat services at the Bikur Holim and the Ezra Bessaroth would be closed. Even on the High Holidays, the schedule was to hold services in only one Synagogue for the entire community.
However, the system did not work too well, and when one of the synagogues should have been closed, it opened. So much for the system...
Both congregations entered into a five year contract with Rabbi Kahn, and the Bikur Holim paid off the contract and the Ezra Bessaroth retained Rabbi Kahn.
The, Talmud Torahs were separated also. The only community wide endeavor was the cemetery.
It was at this time that the Seattle Sephardic Brotherhood was formed, with Mr. Gordon DeLeon as its first President. Other founders and early leaders of the Brotherhood were Messrs. John Calderon, Jacob DeLeon, Henry Benezra, Jack Caston, Sam Baruch, Jack Almeleh and Rev. David Behar. The Brotherhood kept the Shalom Alehem's medical program, retaining the services of Dr. Jacobs and adding Dr. Allen. The first dues charged by the Brotherhood were $12 a year. They also utilized the medical services of Dr. Rueben.
The Brotherhood also kept the cemetery and supported the Sephardic youth activities. One such organization was the Young Hebrew Literary Club that began at the Education Center, and later changed its name to the Junior Sephardic League. An attorney, Mr. Mel Monheimer, was the advisor, and the group met on Sundays for dancing, social and cultural activities. This is where many of our young people met each other, and many marriages were formed here.
The Brotherhood had about 250 members, and its main functions were the providing of medical services, burial services and helping the needy through the Welfare Committee, headed by Mr. Marco Franco.