Dina's Guide to Jewish Seattle
So you are considering or have just moved to Seattle, and are wondering about all that the Jewish community has to offer. You shouldn't have to figure it all out alone! Read on for words of wisdom and links that should help you navigate the dynamic and glorious Jewish communities of Seattle. Enjoy, and happy exploring!
There are a number of neighborhoods with Jewish communities in Seattle. For me a lot of the decision about where to live was based on where I'd be spending most of my waking hours. The geography and traffic of Seattle make it tough to commute across the lake or across downtown. There are a few synagogues in other neighborhoods such as Chabad in Queen Anne and Ballard, and on the East Side (Bellevue and Issaquah), but the greatest concentration of traditionally observant Jews are in the neighborhoods listed below.
The North End
The neighborhood of Northeast Seattle generally comprises the neighborhoods of Ravenna, Bryant, and Wedgwood close to the University of Washington (map of the Eruv). It's a safe, family-friendly and walkable neighborhood. It has a wide diversity of Jewish organizations, including:
Mercaz is a Modern Orthodox welcoming, growing "startup minyan" that meets on Shabbat and for other special events. It's got a homey feel (it meets in a community member's basement) and a significant proportion of young professionals and families. Mercaz is known for its musical melave malkas and retreats such as the yearly Shavuoton.
Congregation Shaarei Tefilah Lubavitch
CSTL is a Lubavitch Orthodox synagogue that also provides helpful Jewish infrastructure in the North End. The community is comprised of a mix of Lubavitch/Orthodox families, and the shul's meaty Shabbat morning chulent is fantastic!
Congregation Beth Shalom
Beth Shalom is a large Conservative shul with many programs specifically for young adults (FB group). They have a lot of innovative programming such as their 50th anniversary series of home-hosted dinner parties.
Temple Beth Am
Beth Am is a reform temple that welcomes the entire spectrum of Jewish community and enables each member to reflect the holy: people of all ages, races, and abilities; interfaith families; and people who are single, partnered, straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.
Selah Seattle Minyan
Selah Seattle is an independent Egalitarian minyan that meets monthly in people's homes for Friday night services and a vegetarian potluck.
JConnect Seattle/UW Hillel
The University of Washington Hillel has a beautiful facility with a kosher, supervised kitchen. It hosts events for young adults through JConnect, including holiday celebrations (kosher for Passover meals), social events, and guest speakers.
The Seward Park neighborhood is named after a beautiful park on a Lake Washington peninsula that is shaped like a cactus. It is the largest Orthodox Jewish community in Seattle and one of 3 with an eruv. You'll often find members of the Jewish community "walking the loop" of the park on holiday afternoons. The neighborhood has a strong Sephardic and Ashkenazi Orthodox presence. The community prides itself on its hachnasat orchim (welcoming of guests and visitors).
Seward Park is home to the oldest of the Jewish communities in Seattle. Seattle hosts a vibrant Sephardic population that moved to Seattle from Greece and Turkey at the turn of the century. The Seattle Sephardic Network organizes community events. There's even a department of Sephardic Studies at the University of Washington. Sephardic synagogues in Seward Park include Sephardic Bikur Holim (Turkish) and Ezra Bessaroth (Rhodesli). Hazzan Emeritus Ike Azose is an institution, having written the siddur and other holy prayer books used by both these congregations. They host awesome cultural events such as the Tu B'shvat Fruticas celebration and Bazaars where many homemade Sephardic goodies are sold.
Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath is an Ashkenazi Orthodox shul known for its extensive kids/groups programming. The congregation is over 100 years old and has beautiful stained glass windows in the synagogue. The newer synagogues include Ashreichem Yisrael and Ohr Chadash. Minyan Ohr Chadash is a Modern Orthodox minyan where singing and group participation are integral parts of the services. Ashreichem Yisrael is a smaller congregation with a warm, "shtibl" feel. These synagogues are very family-friendly.
Mercer Island is the "Beverly Hills" of the Seattle area. It's home to the Stroum JCC, which hosts lots of Jewish events including everything from concerts by Israeli musicians to the annual Challah Bake. There's an Orthodox Synagogue called Island Synagogue as well as a large Conservative synagogue, Herzl Ner-Tamid. The kosher pizza place, Island Crust, is also located there. Mercer Island has an eruv. The QFC on Mercer Island has a deli and a baked goods section.
These days young Jews who live in Downtown often take part in the Chabad Young Professionals community. Additionally, there's a traditional Orthodox service that takes place at the Summit at First Hill (retirement community) on Shabbat mornings.
Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Capitol Hill has events specifically targeted towards Young Adults with TDHS - The Tribe.
A Note on Housing
Housing in Seattle is tough -- both to rent and to buy. There is simply not much availability in desirable neighborhoods and the prices are high. In neighborhoods with denser housing such as apartment complexes (Ravenna, Columbia City, downtown), it can be easier to find a place to live. Many young professionals go with the "in-law" unit approach of living in a separate unit within another family's house. Zillow is a personal favorite for finding available housing, e.g., an approximate map of rentals in the North End eruv.
The Seattle Vaad maintains an updated list of kosher establishments at http://seattlevaad.org/portfolio-type/restaurant/#restaurant. All of the standalone restaurants under supervision in Seattle are dairy or pareve.
One of the more surprising purveyors of tasty kosher food is the Summit at First Hill, the local Jewish assisted living facility. Their dairy cafe is open to the public (one of the best-kept kosher Seattle secrets, in my opinion), and features delicious in-house smoked salmon and 1970's prices. Their in-house chef is an awesome guy and he hosts a fleishig Bistro Night around five times a year, offering an artisanal multi-course meal. Note, as of 2020, the Summit is only catering within Kline Galland facilities due to Covid-19.
QFC and Trader Joe's both provide many kosher fixings, including meats, cheeses, and other products. QFC in University Village has an in-house meat cutter who often posts discounts on the Kosher Deals in Seattle FB group. It also features kosher rotisserie chickens, sushi, and a kosher Einstein Brothers bagel shop where you can pick up fresh challah. Safeway locations on Rainier Ave near Seward Park and 45th Ave NE in the North End have a growing supply of fresh meat, cheeses, and more. PCC, a local upscale natural food store, carries an assortment of kosher products including cheeses.
Seattle Kosher delivers online purchases of many kosher brands.
Costco (originally founded in the Seattle area!) and Grocery Outlet are good places to find bargains.
DK's is a huge warehouse market in Renton that carries a number of kosher imported products and lots of excellent produce.
- Leah's Catering: https://www.leahcookskosher.com/catering.php
- Wolf and Spice Catering does Shabbat and the occasional weeknight takeout: https://wolfandspice.com/
- Francine's Desserts sells custom cakes/pastries as well as holiday/Shabbat catering: https://www.instagram.com/francinesdesserts, https://www.facebook.com/FrancinesDesserts/
- Beloria Levy makes custom cakes: http://instagram.com/batter_splatter
- The Summit: https://www.klinegalland.org/our-care/the-summit-at-first-hill/culinary-services/
There's an active community of Facebook groups serving the Seattle Jewish community.
Ask for favors or offer help to others at Seattle Chesed and Refuah.
Seattle Jewish B/S/T is a place to give away/sell items within the Jewish community.
Moishe House Seattle offers many programs for young professionals.
Buy Nothing is a cool organization where you can give and receive loads of free stuff. It's recycling to the next level and super convenient for giving away that extra desk that doesn't fit in your apartment.
There's a group dedicated to growing the observant Jewish community in Seattle called Seattle Orthodox Jewish Community Growth Initiative.
If you're into Jewish meditation, we have a group for that too! See the Seattle Jewish Meditation Initiative.
There's also the old-skool Yahoo group called SOJBB which is a good place to post one-off bulletin board announcements.
This is an unofficial guide targeted at young Jewish professionals, and only reflects the opinions of its author. For alternative guides, see:
- The Jewish In Seattle magazine publishes its "Guide to Jewish Washington" yearly, which provides a comprehensive guide of nearly every Jewish organization in the area.
- OU Communities Guide entry for Seattle
- Samis Foundation description of the neighborhoods: http://samisfoundation.org/seattle-jewish-communities/
- Kent Swigard, a local real estate agent, lists Orthodox Jewish resources at http://kentswigard.com/frum-resources/