A renowned community leader and philanthropist, Becky Benaroya and her family extend the love and generosity she learned as a child. Born and raised in Seattle’s Sephardic Jewish community, Becky is devoted to Seattle’s elderly populations, the city’s Symphony and arts programs, and the preservation of her Sephardic heritage. She and her husband Jack raised three children. Active in the Jewish and larger Seattle community, her life continues to grace the civic, cultural, Jewish, and family life in the city she loves.
“My grandfather was a very religious practicing Jew. And my mother was brought up like that. So we kept a kosher home. We went to Talmud Torah [religious school]. My grandfather came over every day, and he’d sit and read his prayer book. He was a wonderful grandfather, very highly respected in the community. He always gave us little stories. Instead of disciplining us, he’d sit down and tell us little stories with a message behind it. And he was so patient. He was the one that taught me to tie my shoes and how to fly a kite. And he’d teach me how to roller skate and help me with my bicycle. He was there. And if you needed another person to turn that rope for jump rope, he was there. Yes, he was a wonderful grandfather. And I knew how special he was.
“As I’m thinking about my grandfather... what I loved about him, it was his live and let live attitude. He never thought that money was important. He always felt that it’s a gift while you’re on this earth. The most important thing is a good name, that’s what you leave when you leave this earth. I thought about that a lot. He always said, ‘They judge you by the company you keep.’ These were little things that he’d tell us when we were little, but they stayed with me.
“And how sweet he was when we did things for him. He taught me how to make Turkish coffee. He always liked his Turkish coffee after he said his prayers, and he taught me how to make it. Even if it wasn’t good, he’d tell me how delicious it was, because I made it. Oh, that special caring, that is special for any child.”
“I think being first generation, you have a different feeling about achieving. And I think that when you inherit wealth it’s a different kind of feeling; but when you have earned it, and you feel very grateful that you’re here in this country and you have these opportunities, you want to give something back to your community. We’ve always felt this way. The children have heard us talk about it. And I think they feel this is what it’s all about. Why not share?”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.