The Sephardim of Seattle

On the eve of World War I, roughly one third of Seattle’s Jews were Sephardim, making the city a rarity in the U.S., where by this time the overwhelming majority of Jews were Ashkenazi. Most of these Jews had come from modern-day Turkey and the Greek island of Rhodes, both of which were then part of the Ottoman empire. Judy Lash Balint describes the community’s history:

They left their close-knit Jewish communities on the shores of Turkey’s Sea of Marmara and the island of Rhodes as political instability engulfed the crumbling Ottoman empire—to avoid conscription and to strive for a brighter economic future. Seattle’s fishing industry and the Puget Sound reminded the young Jews of the waterfront towns they had left behind, and Jacob Policar and Solomon Calvo had heard about Seattle from a traveler who returned to Marmara. They were the first Sephardi Jews who arrived in Seattle in 1902.

[T]he old Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation building on 19th Avenue and East Fir Street, last June, . . . was recognized by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board as a protected historical landmark. The imposing brick building, constructed in 1929, still contains the original synagogue’s wooden entry doors decorated with Stars of David. The building application for landmark status notes that detailing on stone arches evokes the architecture of Hagia Sophia, the renowned Turkish Byzantine church, which is now a mosque. That flourish in the Seattle building is “suggestive of the Turkish heritage of the building’s original congregants,” per the application.

In the 1960s, most of the Jews left the area for the more suburban Seward Park neighborhood. The synagogue building is now occupied by a church.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

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

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus