Young Seattle, plagued by fires and a depression and boosted by the promise of gold, spent the next century growing into a thriving metropolis. Seattle’s most recent boom is another gold rush of sorts, as tech companies and start-ups inflate the population. Companies like Israel-based WeWork are growing faster than they can build, and the 2014 community study found that the median age of Jews in Seattle is 39, suggesting that young Jews are flocking here — most likely for job opportunities. There’s no indication that the influx will slow down. Here’s to history in the making.
Seattle didn’t have to become the center of Washington Jewish life. The state’s history is full of “if only” moments, when things could have gone quite differently.
City of Destiny
With the western terminus of the railroad, Tacoma flourished with Jewish life. More than 175 Jewish families flocked there in the 1800s, according to historian Deb Freedman. But in 1893, with the first synagogue under construction, Tacoma was hit with a banking crisis, causing families to seek greener pastures. While a Jewish community exists in Tacoma today, what could have been a vibrant center of Jewish life began to atrophy in the early 20th century.
No Place Like Home
Several Jews in search of utopia joined the colony called Home on Joe’s Bay on Puget Sound. The commune, started in 1896, attracted anarchists, nudists, all sorts of “free thinkers,” and, for three days, New Yorker Emma Goldman. The residents opposed violence and shirked the regulations of society. But as with all utopias, the dream faded, and by 1921 the hopeful colony had dissolved.
Republic of Jews
By 1900, several Jews had congregated in the gold-mining town of Republic. Promoting its prospects in Yiddish papers, Charles Greenberg attracted a group of Jewish farmers from Nova Scotia and a rabbi. But conditions were punishing, and residents struggled to pay their farm loans. Only Greenberg stayed, and with his death in 1936, the Jewish presence in Republic became history.
The King of Beer
In 1906, Herman Klaber bought 360 acres of fields near Tacoma and created the largest hops field in the world at the time. But after selling his Klaber’s Chehalis Hops to European brewers, Klaber boarded the ill-fated Titanic. His body was never recovered. In 2013, Dick’s Brewing, in Centralia, created a Klaber Fair Beer in Klaber’s memory for the Southwest Washington Fair.