Orthodox in Seattle: Community Organizations

As I noted yesterday in the introduction to my series on Orthodox Judaism in Seattle [mb], a variety of amenities are needed to sustain a full Orthodox community. Don’t get me wrong, smaller communities get by with far less, but Seattle is pretty fortunate in this area.

One of the most important features of an Orthodox communities is the beis din, or rabbinic court. In Seattle, the Va’ad performs this function, supervising things like legal disputes, conversions, and divorces [seattle va’ad].

Another feature important to observant Jews is the eruv, a tremendous assistance for observance of the Sabbath (known as Shabbos or Shabbat to Ashkenazis and Sephards, respectively). On Shabbos, observant Jews do not perform any of 39 categories of work defined by the Torah, and one category is carrying items from private to public domains (or back again). This includes any items, including your house keys and your baby! The eruv allows such carrying by artificially enclosing the public area with a series of poles and wires, turning the public into private for legal purposes. Eruvs exist in Seward Park and on Mercer Island.

You might be particularly surprised to learn that Seattle supports four Orthodox Jewish day schools, three K-8 schools and two high schools. Orthodox day schools are particularly challenging, with a dual curriculum of secular and Judaism studies. Day school kids never cease to amaze me, the first graders already know way more Hebrew than I do! The oldest day school is Seattle Hebrew Academy, established in 1947 and serving preschool through eighth grade. The co-ed high school is Northwest Yeshiva High School, established in 1974. Besides SHA and NYHS are Torah Day School, started two years ago by families largely associated with the Seattle Kollel, and Menachem Mendel, run by the Chabad-Lubavitch movement [wikipedia].

But you know what occupies my mind most of all? Food! Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the kosher restaurants and groceries available in Seattle. You’ll be surprised at the options–and especially by the cuisines!

4 Comments so far

  1. gargamello on June 3rd, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

    Well I don’t care much for the many fine and elaborate details of Christian religious extremists, but Jewish religious extremist dogma is just so much more fascinating…


  2. yayunicorns on June 3rd, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

    as someone who grew up in the faith, i have to say that out of all the places i’ve lived (florida, new york, pennsylvania, georgia, michigan, california and here) seattle has been the least accommodating when it comes to jews. i actually tried to go to temple for the first time in 2 years a week ago, and the doors were locked at 6 pm on a wednesday. the only place i can go for shabbat without taking 20 buses does a "rockin" reform service. and when i tell someone here that i’m jewish they almost always first say, "really? i had no idea." like they should’ve figured it out by my big nose. then they follow that statement with, "so can you eat bacon?" to which i say yes, further confusing everything they’ve learned on tv or wikipedia. so i have to explain to these seattlites that not every jew looks a certain way, acts a certain way and eats a certain way. we are in fact, all different. thank god.


  3. Daniel M. Perez (highmoon) on June 4th, 2008 @ 1:34 pm

    The column is called Orthodox in Seattle, so it’s gonna cover a specific segment of the Jewish population. For someone who doesn’t keep kosher or is shomer Shabbat, this would all be irrelevant anyone so I fail to see what the big deal is. And no, this isn’t extremist, it’s the Law (as in Torah Law).

    Chaya, what about mikvaot in Seattle. How many are there and where?


  4. Chaya (chaya) on June 4th, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

    Barrie,

    I’ve found the Reform (and to a lesser degree, Conservative) community to be very unfriendly in Seattle. I’ll mention this in a later place but that is part of the reason I left that community.

    Daniel,

    I almost mentioned mikvaot but I didn’t want to have to go into the whole explanation of what it is! There are three, one in Seward Park, one in Ravenna, and one in Bellevue. The one in Seward Park is part of BCMH and Ravenna’s is Chabad, I don’t know what the Bellevue one’s affiliation. I’ve been to the BCMH one before (when I converted Reform last year) and it’s really nice, a little antiseptic but that’s sort of the deal anyway.



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