Orthodox in Seattle: An Introduction

According to most recent counts, approximately 1.4% of Americans identify themselves as Jewish [wikipedia]. Within that, 10% [jcpa] identify themselves as part of the Orthodox movement [wikipedia]. Despite small numbers, an obligation for every Jew to pray and study together keeps even the smallest of Orthodox communities strong and vibrant, and Seattle is no different–and not as small as you might think.

Organized by the rabbinic council known as the Va’ad HaRabanim of Greater Seattle, Seattle supports a full ten synagogues and minyanim (small prayer groups) ranging a variety of streams and ethnicities [seattle va’ad]. Synagogues and minyans are located in Seward Park (the arguable hub of the Orthodox community with three synagogues and one minyan), Ravenna, the U-District, Bellevue, Mercer Island, West Seattle, and Capitol Hill.

Seattle is unique in that it has one of the US’s largest communities of Sephardic Jews, an ethnic group descended from the Iberian peninsula and the smaller of the two main Jewish ethnic groups [wikipedia], with two of the ten synagogues (Sephardic Bikur Holim and Congregation Ezra Bessaroth, both located in Seward Park neighborhood) serving the Sephardic community. Seven of the other eight synagogues are identified either as Ashkenazic, the larger of the two Jewish ethnic groups descended from Eastern Europe [wikipedia], or Chabad-Lubavitch [wikipedia] (which is non-ethnic but primarily Ashkenazic). The eighth, Mercer Island’s Shevet Achim, considers itself both Ashkenazic and Sephardic. (For an excellent discussion of the difference between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, see Judaism 101 [#].)

Any Orthodox community needs a variety of amenities to sustain itself. Come back tomorrow to read about the different places that support the Orthodox community in Seattle!

1 Comment so far

  1. Daniel M. Perez (highmoon) on June 2nd, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    Fantastic! My wife and I are Orthodox and live in Miami Beach, but we’ll be visiting Seattle in late June, so this couldn’t have come in any handier. And hey, it’s also a city we are curious about as a possibility for a move, so the info on this column may help for more than the current trip. Thanks and looking forward to more.

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