A Curtain Factory and Seattle’s Sephardi Legacy

March 2 2021

In 1930, Rachel and Raphael Capeluto—Jewish immigrants from the island of Rhodes—founded the Seattle Curtain Manufacturing Company, which was to play a major role in the local Sephardi community, then as now one of the largest in the U.S. Their factory, having ceased operation some time ago, was sold last year, and recently demolished. As Hannah Pressman writes, it was located in a neighborhood known as the Kosher Canyon, which was “the original commercial and religious heart of Seattle’s Jewish community.”

Between the 1920s and the 1960s, this vibrant corridor of kosher butchers, bakers, and grocery stores offered everything from special Purim candies to arroz molido, the finely ground rice used to make sutlach, a sweet rice pudding beloved by the many Ottoman Jewish immigrants who resided nearby. On Rosh Hashanah kids would synagogue-hop among the different houses of worship lining East Fir Street, before the two Sephardi synagogues moved south to the neighborhood of Seward Park and nestled near the shores of Lake Washington.

During its long lifespan, Seattle Curtain—known to the community simply as “the factory”—witnessed [many changes] in Seattle’s Jewish orientation points, yet the company’s founding principles remained the same: work hard, treat employees like family, honor your religion, and give back.

The business’s Jewish identity was always integral to its operation: the factory closed for Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, and workers exchanged Ladino expressions on the floor. . . . In addition to curtains, [it] created wraparound vinyl coverings for the sukkah walls at local residences and synagogues.

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More about: American Jewish History, Capitalism, Seattle, Sephardim

The End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and the Rise of the Arab-Israeli Coalition

Nov. 30 2022

After analyzing the struggle between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors since 1949, Dan Schueftan explains the current geopolitical alignment and what it means for Jerusalem:

Using an outdated vocabulary of Middle Eastern affairs, recent relations between Israel and most Arab states are often discussed in terms of peace and normalization. What is happening recently is far more significant than the willingness to live together and overshadow old grievances and animosities. It is about strategic interdependence with a senior Israeli partner. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de-facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both. Iran is the immediate and outstanding among those radicals, but Erdogan’s Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Syria—and, in a different way, its allies in the Muslim Brotherhood—are not very far behind.

For Israel, the result of these new alignments is a transformational change in its regional standing, as well as a major upgrade of its position on the global stage. In the Middle East, Israel can, for the first time, act as a full-fledged regional power. . . . On the international scene, global powers and other states no longer have to weigh the advantages of cooperation with Israel against its prohibitive costs in “the Arab World. . . . By far the most significant effect of this transformation is on the American strategic calculus of its relations with Israel.

In some important ways, then, the “New Middle East” has arrived. Not, of course, in the surreal Shimon Peres vision of regional democracy, peace, and prosperity, but in terms of a balance of power and hard strategic realities that can guardrail a somewhat less unstable and dangerous region, where the radicals are isolated and the others cooperate to keep them at bay.

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More about: Abraham Accords, Israel-Arab relations, Middle East, Shimon Peres, U.S.-Israel relationship