Washington’s Sephardic Community
Jews from Morocco, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, and Latin America strengthen Washington’s Sephardic community. They celebrate holidays like Mimouna, sing prayers using Sephardic melodies, and prepare special foods like dafina, chouchouka, and almond cigars.
In 1914, a small group of Greek and Turkish Jews founded Yom Tov Congregation, the city’s first Sephardic prayer and burial group. They were soon joined by newly arrived Syrian Jews. Rabbi Solomon Ereza, an early community leader, secured permission for the group to meet at Washington Hebrew Congregation and later at the Hebrew Home on Spring Road.
A second wave of Sephardic immigrants, mainly Moroccans, arrived in Washington following World War II. Marcel Cadeaux and Albert Emsellem trained many of them in the beauty business.
Our home was like the Sephardic JSSA [Jewish Social Service Agency]…My mother and father counseled and helped get people started…our door was always open.
Irene Kaplan, daughter of Albert Emsellem