Washington’s Jewish community predates statehood

Seattle had a Jewish mayor in 1875. #k5evening

SEATTLE — When telling the Northwest story, a group of people is often overlooked.

“I just love hearing that history and making it come to life,” said Lisa Kranseler, executive director of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society.

Kranseler is dedicated to highlighting the Jewish community in our area with publications, programs and exhibitions.

The society’s archivist, Ryan Donaldson, also helps find, preserve, and share the stories of this vibrant community.

“We’re naming,” Donaldson said. “We’re giving a face, we’re giving a voice.”

The WSJHS oversees a large collection of images and sounds that paint a colorful picture from more than 150 years ago, to the time when the first Jewish settlers arrived in Tacoma in 1845.

Migration waves brought artisans, merchants and traders, including Bailey Gatzert.

“He was the first and only Jewish mayor in Seattle,” Kranseler said.

Prosperous communities sprang up in small towns.

“Some people come for the prospect of gold,” said Donaldson.

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Much of Seattle’s history is the history of its Jewish residents, including some of the founders of Pike Place Market.

In the early 1900s, a Jewish neighborhood nicknamed Kosher Canyon took root in Seattle’s Central District.

“You can still see the inscriptions on some of the buildings,” explains Kranseler.

Many relics continue to tell of this rich history in the Washington State Jewish Archives located at the University of Washington.

“Nearly 500 oral histories,” says Kranseler.

Almost forgotten chapters come to life, from the birth of the now iconic Ben Bridge Jeweler, actually from small-town Pennsylvania, to the artist’s life story Famous artist Maria Frank Abrams.

“In a way (Abram’s oral history) is really one of these mid-century artists in Seattle,” said Donaldson.

Many artifacts document everyday life, such as the scrapbook of one of Washington’s first female pharmacy students, Bella Kracower Secord.

“I like a lot of things about it,” Donaldson said. “But I think what’s special are the decisions she made when she made it. Where she put everything, how she put it together and organized it. And we have it now, decades away. later, to enjoy.”

There’s an explanation of the world’s largest bagel, the creation of Brenner Brothers in Bellevue, and the humble origins of some of the biggest businesses in our region.

“Like Masins Furniture, start with a few pieces of broken furniture, then start with a repair shop and become a furniture store,” says Kranseler.

Washington State’s Jewish history is in good hands.

“The history of the past, the history of the present,” says Kranseler. “And make sure it’s here for our future legacies.”


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https://www.king5.com/article/entertainment/television/programs/evening/washington-state-jewish-historical-society/281-d2865b01-ddf4-499b-8a33-774ca06c6abc Washington’s Jewish community predates statehood

Edmund DeMarche

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