Reverend Morris and Esther Rena Scharhon

Black and white photo of Morris and Esther Scharhon. Morris is at right, wearing a suit and holding up a glass, as if toasting. Esther is on the left and is wearing a hat and a dress, with a boutonniere on her lapel.

Photo of Morris and Esther Rena Scharhon, 1947 (courtesy Sam Mezistrano).

Before merging with Sephardic Bikur Holim in 1940, Jews from Marmara, Gallipoli, and Istanbul had their own community in Seattle: Congregation Ahavath Ahim, founded in 1914. Although himself a native of Rhodes, Reverend Morris Scharhon (1888-1950) not only served as the hazan (cantor) of Ahavath Ahim and later of Sephardic Bikur Holim, but also transformed Sephardic Jewish education in Seattle.

Scharhon received a multifaceted education, attending both a French-Jewish
school, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, and an Ottoman Turkish high school. In Seattle he placed an emphasis on religious education, teaching at the Sephardic Talmud Torah until it shuttered during the Great Depression. His library — complete with textbooks, lesson outlines, and roll books — reveals that Scharhon taught not only religious subjects, but also insisted that his pupils learn how to read and write Ladino. Even after the school closed, Scharhon continued teaching out of his own home.

He and his wife, Esther Rena, had twelve children, many of whom remained active in Seattle’s Sephardic communal institutions. Scharhon’s impressive collection of religious and educational texts have been preserved by various members of his family.

Scharhon Collection Highlights

Soletreo letter in blue ink from Reverend Scharhon to his children.

Letter from Reverend Scharhon to his children, Rachel and Azaria, on Scharhon’s personal stationary. Sent from Buenos Aires on November 26, 1947 (ST00215, courtesy Esther Scharhon Caplan). View more Scharhon letters here >

Letterhead from the merged synagogues Biker Holim and Ahavath Him. Includes an illustration of the synagogue with its name below, as well as the address.

Letterhead from the merged Ahavath Ahim and Bikur Holim congregations. The synagogue’s name eventually became Sephardic Bikur Holim, as it is known today (ST01155, courtesy Naomi Strauss).

Blue ticket from Congregation Ahavath Ahim for high holiday services. The ticket has a menorah at the top in the middle and the details in Hebrew and English typed below.

Ticket to High Holiday services at Congregation Ahavath him in the Central District, 1920 (ST01649, courtesy Jack Babani).

Check from Israel A. Eskenazi, president of Ahavath Ahim, to Reverend Scharhon, dated November 26, 1940.

Check from Israel A. Eskenazi, president of Ahavath Ahim, to Reverend Scharhon, dated November 26, 1940 (ST01704, courtesy Esther Morhaime).

Reverend Scharhon's soletreo attendance list. Includes columns with date, student name, and marks about their attendance. Handwritten in black ink and pencil on yellowed paper.

Page from Reverend Scharhon’s attendance booklet, containing a record of his students in the Talmud Torah from 1929 to 1934. The names are written in soletreo script (ST01696, courtesy Esther Morhaime).