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.