A native of Seattle, Ventura Israel was
born in 1915, two years after her parents immigrated from Turkey. Forged as a strong woman by the deaths of men in her family-her father’s in 1928, her first husband’s in 1970, and her second husband’s in 1989-she helped support her family during the Depression, and as a twenty-five year employee of Union Federal Savings and Loan. Both her first husband, Maurice Franco, and her second husband, Morris Israel, were born in Rhodes, Greece, and Ventura spent her religious life in Seattle’s Sephardic community. The mother of two, and a vibrant community member, Ventura currently volunteers at the Caroline Kline Galland home and at her synagogue, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth.
“My dad had a shoeshine stand. And he did quite well, you know. He took care of us. And he used to bring a chocolate candy every night for my sister and I, called Uno. And when I was about 7 years old, he bought a piano so my sister and I could take lessons. And when he died in 1928, we just became poor. Very poor.”
“I was 13 years old when my father died. And we sold the piano. And my mother had a lot of beautiful jewelry, gold jewelry. All that was sold. I was going to school. I had to quit part of the time, so I could go to work, so my brothers can go to school, because you know, a man has to make a living for his family. And I used to beg for work. I worked in a bakery at night. I worked during the day at a delicatessen in the market. I babysat. I was a nanny. And then I worked for a linen shop called Daylan’s on Second Avenue on Saturdays. And I worked also on a Saturday for a shoe repair shop. I was a cashier.
“I would bring some money home. And my brothers went to school. Of course, when my father died, then my older brother ran the shoeshine stand. He would go there after work, and he’d work there on the weekends.”
“During the holidays during World War II my husband and I used to invite the Jewish servicemen over for the holidays. In fact, I got three beautiful letters. I have them still. I was working at the time, and getting everything ready at night for the holidays. You called the Jewish Family Service, and then they would send you servicemen. I had two different fellows which I heard from, you know. I’ve got the letters. They’re just beautiful.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.