Reverend Morris and Esther Rena Scharhon
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.