Becoming a Hazzan

While working at Boeing in the 1950s, Ike was involved with Sephardic Bikur Holim. In 1952, Reverend Benaroya joined the congregation from Geneva and became hazzan. Ike learned much from Hazzan Benaroya, as well as his Uncle Bension, acting as an unofficial hazzan. 

What is a Hazzan?

A hazzan (or chazzan) is a Jewish musician trained in vocal arts who helps lead the congregation in soulful prayer. An English equivalent term is a cantor.  

Ike’s experiences and education prepared him for a leadership role as hazzan. Ike noted how he learned to incorporate Ladino songs into the religious repertoire: 

“I thought it was very good. A few people that you know taking street songs and putting them to the liturgy is not a nice thing to do, but everybody has done it and I think all the other Sephardic groups as well throughout the world have done the same thing.” 

Oral history interview with Isaac Azose, 2014. OHC683. Washington State Jewish Archives. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections.

See and hear Ike perform the Passover Kiddush in the 1978 documentary: Song of the Sephardi

Circa 1963, Sephardic Bikur Holim had purchased the property on which the synagogue currently stands. There was an old ramshackle house that Ike and several younger members had remodeled into a temporary synagogue. Because of all the experience he acquired with SBH as a young boy, Ike had become the primary hazzan of the Seward Park Branch of the Sephardic Bikur Holim. His responsibilities included leading Shabbat services and all holiday services.

Ike's Stories about Becoming a Hazzan

Ike has a lifelong commitment to documenting the Sephardic traditions learned throughout his life in writing and song. This includes (but is not limited to) the publication of Siddur Zehut Yosef, the only Siddur that specifically follows the tradition of the Jews of Turkey and Rhodes, as well as Ladino Reflections, a double compact disc set of Ladino Romansas and Folksongs. 

Ike Azose and Paco Diez rehearsing for a performance at Stroum Jewish Community Center, November 2019.

Learn more from Ike Azose about Ezra Bessaroth and the Sephardic Jewish community in the Seattle Historic Sephardic Jewish Tour.

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