Our Grandfather Abraham Maimon was the middle brother of three boys and two girls. He was born in 1874 to a family that had been in Brusa for quite a while. We know Very little of his own childhood except that he developed a great desire to study deeper into the religion than was Possible for a man engaged in business. Confronted with a choice Papoo neglected the silk business to immerse himself in the study of Judaism. His family encouraged this natural inclination.
When he came of age he married Victoria of the Franco Family, long known for their service to the Hahamim of Brusa. Members of the Franco family, Nona's father and later her older brother, served as Kavas to the Haham of the Main Synogogue of Brusa. The Kavas is an assistant and aide and Personal companion to the chief Rabbi, a position of great responsibility and honor. The women of the Franco family were known for their good works to aid the Jewish families of Brusa, a tradition that Nona Maimon carried on in each city they settled.
As an engagement present for Papoo, he was taken on a trip to Israel by his future father-in-law. Such a trip was quite an undertaking because it involved a sea Voyage from Istanbul to Jaffa, then overland by camel to the holy places in Jerusalem.
Abraham and Victoria Maimon were married and began their family in Brusa where the two older girls, Aunty Fanny and Aunty Louise, were born.
Now that Papoo was certain he would serve in the Rabbinate they began the odyssey that would eventually bring the family to Seattle. When Uncle Bension was born, Papoo was Serving in Mudanya, the port of entry for Brusa. He next served in Adapazar, a small city northeast of Brusa where two more boys, Jack and Isaac were born. The Climate in Adapazar Proved to be too unhealthy for the family so they moved to Istanbul temporarily while the Chief Rabbinate located a position for Papoo. At the end of three months, toward the end of 1911, he was offered the Position of Haham of Tekir Dagh.
. All the memories were not always Pleasant, Due to the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, they were forced back to Istanbul as war refugees for a period of nine months. Later, during the First World War, in which Turkey was Committed to the German side, there were more hardships for the family because even food and clothing were scarce, After the War ended in 1918, trouble still Continued in Turkey, The Turks had overthrown the Sultan and established a Republic. Greece and Turkey were fighting over the remains of the 0ttoman Empire. The new nationalism of the Turks made everyone eligible for the Army, where previously, the Jews had been exempted. Our family's knowledge of how degrading and miserable service in the Turkish Army was came from Papoo's younger brother David. He was forced to serve with the Army fighting in Gallipoli as a ditch digger, He suffered greatly during the war and was thought to be lost by the family for some years before he came back. With this example of mistreatment before him, and the older boys, Uncle Bension and Uncle Jack, approaching military age, Papoo knew a move had to be made to save them from the Army.
Many residents of Tekir Dagh and Marmara had emigrated to the United States, and to Seattle in Particular, even before the first World War. Correspondence between the newly established Sephardic Community in Seattle and Papoo Maimon in Turkey had been going on for some time. As the new Community expanded they needed a spiritual leader and they all held fond memories of "Haribi Avram".
In early 1924 a firm offer was made by Seattle, and Papoo decided to accept. This was not a Snap decision however. Before the war, America had been an open door for all immigrants. After it, the Americans retreated into an isolation, one aspect of which was new, tough barriers for prospective immigrants. To restrict immigration the Americans proposed a quota system based on visas given by the American consulates. Papoo realized not only the red tape necessary to apply for and receive a visa but also that his two older daughters, Fanny and Louise, would have to stay behind because they were Considered adults by U.S. Immigration Standards. The open door to America had almost been closed and Papoo knew they must move, so the effort began.
They sold their home in Tekir Dagh and moved to Istanbul in the summer of 1924. Papoo began the rounds of Consulate, Rabbinate, ticket offices, temporary living arrangements and providing for the boarding of the two older girls when the family left. Study the passport photo Carefully and compare it with the family picture taken about a year after arrival in Seattle. The Turkish passport picture shows a tense, weary family group eyeing the Photographer with a great deal of suspicion. Nona Maimon's face is thin and darkened by worry over the daughters left behind and the new challenges ahead. Papoo appears to be angry, quite a change from his usual tolerant, gentle personality that was well known in Turkey and Seattle. The expressions in the picture even anticipate some of the problems they were to encounter on their Voyage from.the old world to the new.
There was a three month wait in Istanbul while the red tape wound around the family but progress was finally made. Uncle Bension has a vivid memory of one area where Papoo needed papers.
"When time came for Papa to apply for a visa to emigrate to the U.S. with the family, the U.S. Consul in Istanbul required a document Certifying his being a qualified Rabbi, So we went to the Rabbinate. Papa explained the situation to the secretary and a few of his friends that he had in the Rabbinate. They not only agreed to grant him an official certificate but they also said they would add in the document that Papa also had the talent of a Public Speaker, because they had occasion to hear him.
I remember going with Papa to the Rabinato - he knew quite a few of the Hahamim there. Other Rabbis, emmigrating to foreign countries, had to have a formal examination, but with Papa they said this was not necessary. He had often met with the Society of Rabbis who studied regularly in Istanbul. This is how the Rabbis knew Papa so they testified from personal knowledge.”
The journey to America began On a Steamship from Istanbul destined for Marseilie, France. Papoo’s illness forced a week's delay in Marseille. Then on through France by railway through Paris to Le Havre, only to find, because of the delay in Marseilie, they had missed the boat for America. More waiting till the next Steamship departed. With the exception of Solomon, most of the family remembers the Crossing as fairly rough and attended by sea sickness.
Before entering the United States, Ellis Island was the first op for all immigrants. They had been expected to arrive by Rosh Hashanah in Seattle but again illness, this time Nona, forced another delay. In this strangest of all places, America’s doorstep, the Maimon family Observed Rosh Hashanab 5684 on Ellis Island. Nona recovered very soon and the journey, by train now, resumed again. They arrived in time to make Yom Kippur in their new home.
At this time Papoo was 50 years old. He is remembered as of average height with a full reg beard just beginning to be streaked with White. The family picture taken in 1925 shows a calmer, healtitier, more confident group. They would need all the Confidence they could muster because all their problems weren’t solved yet. Besides wondering how to adjust to the new way of life they had to figure a way to reunite the family by bringing Aunty Fanny and Aunty Louise over.
In 1924 the Sephardic Bikur Holim Was located at 13th and Washington Street and the Maimon family's first American home was at 1510 Yesler. All the Children Were enrolled in Pacific School where they attended classes for foreigners Wishing to learn English. Papoo Maimon resumed his work in the Community. He made Meldados a special attraction with his lucid explanation of our laws and customs. His technique was more conversational than pedantic and many people still remember his "charisma” shown at the meldados. Another useful Showcase for Papoo was the informal gatherings at his home after Sunday morning tefila. He even attracted men from other Synogogues who knew he was accessible, willing and able to answer sincerely asked religious questions. Since this was the Prohibition Era, obtaining wine for the Jewish Community became a problem he had to handle. It is a mark of his stature that the Agudath Rairbanim of New York backed his request to import wine for Sacramental pur poses. Another community problem was the deteriorating neighborhood in which the Synogogue was located. By 1928 Papoo Maimon had won the Bikur Holim leadership over to the idea of moving to a better neighborhood. In September 1929 the partly finished building at 20th and Fir Street was dedicated and the members began using it. By 1930 the depression was underway. This meant a drying up of Synogogue revenue so construction slowed on the new building, mortgage payments were harder to make and the Rabbi's salary even began to be an intermittent event.
The Family was reunited in 1927 when Fanny and Louise were able to come over. Papoo had worked dilligently to achieve this. He had consulted community leaders who put him in contact with lawyers and congressmen who were able to get them into the U.S through Canada. The Family came together at their new home at 1807 East Alder. It was from this house that all the childfen, except the youngest boys, Morris and Solomon, would be married. The boys quickly adjusted to the way of life here and understood the necessity of helping the family make ends meet. A few years after they arrived, Uncle Sam and Uncle Jack began a private Talmud Torah in the classrooms of the Washington Street Synogogue to earn a little money. The promising venture was halted by community leaders who saw this school as a rival to the community Sephardic Religious School. The episode does demonstrate a Willingness to work and contribute to the family welfare. The boys accepted other jobs, always with the object of helping the family make ends meet.
In June 1929 Louise married Jack Azose and in January 1931 Fanny married Isaac Adatto. The family was expanding but the depression made life hard. Papoo saw only one grandson, Isaac Azose, when very suddenly, a week after Fanny and Isaac's wedding, Papoo Maimon passed away. Though he didn’t leave an estate his legacy is alive today as we remember him. Many people in the Sephardic community of Seattle still remember Papoo Maimon with great warmth as a man of great knowledge and a willingness to impart it to all who were interested.
With the loss of Papoo the older boys Bension, Jack and Isaac took the initiative in providing for the family still at home. They began businesses then that later most of us children and grandchildren were familiar with. In 1933 Jack married Regina (Romey) and in 1934 Bension married Lucy (Scharhon) and though they still contributed to the family home they also began their own families. After Rachel married Joe Benoliel in 1936 and Isaac married Rachel (Policar) in 1938 Nona Maimon gave up the home on Alder Street to move in with Bension. Morris, who was ill, left for the beneficial climate of Denver and Solomon began attending Yeshiva University in 1937. The focus of the family widened as each of Papao Maimon's children began their own families. When Solomon returned from Yeshiva he was selected to fill his Father's Position in the Sephardic Bikur Holim. He married Sara (Romey) in 1946. - Morris returned to Seattle to be married to Erna (Sommer) in 1949.
Nona Maimon saw all her children married and grandchildren from all. She passed away in 1955.
Papoo and Nona are still remembered by many members of the community, both as admirable and pleasin9 personalities. We should recognize what great strength of character was covered by their velvet personalities. They faced constant challenges in their lives of all sorts including religious, political, economic, geographic and even cultural. Yet each challenge was met with a willingness to rise above it, with calm serenity and a perfect faith that should be the anchor of our own legacy from them.
We are gathered in 1974 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their arrival in the United States. we use this occasion to refresh our memories of two people, our Nona and Papoo Maimon, who, though receding in time from us, grow larger in our memories. We come together to strengthen those memories so they can be carried on by the younger generations of the family.