Congregation Ezra Bessaroth’s synagogue is significant due to its association with the Jewish community. It also reflects the historical movement of Jews into South Seattle during the 1950s and 1960s.
This synagogue is located in the Seward Park neighborhood at the southern end of South Seattle. This synagogue was built by the Ezra Bessaroth congregation in two phases. Construction for the first phase began in 1957 and included an all-purpose social hall and a religious school. After the first phase was completed, the building was dedicated on August 17, 1958. The second phase was for the construction of a separate sanctuary; ground was broken on August 25, 1968, and the sanctuary was dedicated in September 1970.
The history of Ezra Bessaroth is consistent with the broad trends of the Jewish communities in Seattle. During the 1850s, German Jewish immigrants moved into Seattle’s Central District. Yiddish-speaking Jews from Russia and Poland also settled in the Central District and Pioneer Square. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, Sephardic Jews from the Isle of Rhodes and Turkey immigrated to the area. Those from Turkey formed the Sephardic Bikur Holim congregation, and those from the Isle of Rhodes formed Ezra Bessarott Turkish congregation.
The foundations for Ezra Bessaroth, a Sephardic synagogue, were established around 1909. However, Ezra Bessaroth in its current form did not file articles of incorporation until 1914. The congregation originally met in the Central District;but, during the early 1950s, as many African American families moved into the Central District and as Jews increased in prosperity, many Jewish families began moving out of the Central District to Seward Park, the Eastside, and north Seattle. This trend began in the 1950s with move of a number of Orthodox families. During the late 1950s and 1960s, several congregations also relocated, including the Ezra Bessaroth congregation, Sephardic Bikur Holim, and Bikur Cholim.
The synagogue is significant for its active presence in Seattle’s Sephardic community as the congregation has historically provided social, educational, and religious services. The synagogue is an integral part of Seattle’s Jewish community that signifies the development and strength in South Seattle.