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Originally published May 31, 2013 at 5:00 AM | Page modified May 31, 2013 at 3:25 PM

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Play honors Seattle’s Jewish pioneers

The theater piece “In the Land of Rain & Salmon: Jewish Voices of the Northwest: 1880-1920,” drawn from oral histories and other material, debuts at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 2, at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.

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Among those hardy folks who set out for the Washington Territory in the 19th century were pioneering European immigrants like the Schwabachers, Jewish merchants who established major businesses in Boise, Walla Walla and Seattle. Their associate, Bailey Gatzert, opened a branch of a Schwabacher and Sons in Seattle in 1869. (Shown here is a Schwabacher Hardware baseball team, circa 1909). It was the young city’s first wholesale business, and later Gatzert became Seattle’s first Jewish mayor.

Jewish clans played important roles in settling Seattle, as entrepreneurs but also as civic-minded citizens and philanthropists. Some of their stories will be heard on Sunday as Book-It Repertory Theatre and the Washington State Jewish Historical Society present “In the Land of Rain & Salmon: Jewish Voices of the Northwest: 1880-1920.” The hourlong theater piece is drawn from oral histories and other material preserved by WSJHS, and will likely tour locally.

“In the Land of Rain & Salmon” is based on the recent book “Family of Strangers: Building a Jewish Community in Washington State,” as well as other WSJHS publications including “Yesterday’s Mavens, Today’s Foodies” — which boasts family recipes for such delicacies as matzoh ball soup and gefilte fish.

The show debuts at 2 p.m. Sunday (with post-show reception) at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave. S., Seattle; $36 (206-774-2277 or The play is part of an entire “Day of Jewish Arts & Culture” in Seattle; for more info, visit

Misha Berson, Seattle Times theater critic

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