Born in Tishmay near the Isle of Rhodes, Greece where she was raised, Missode Piha spent her childhood in a tight-knit Sephardic family of which her father was Hazzan [cantor]. In 1928, she met and married her husband, Sam, an American visiting his family in Rhodes, and leaving her family behind, moved to the United States with him. First settling in Atlanta, Georgia, they moved to Seattle in 1932 where they raised four children and Missode became a beloved volunteer and member of Seattle’s Sephardic community and Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. Missode Piha died on October 17, 2003.
“My husband came to Rhodes from America. And he went to my father and he said, ‘I saw your daughter, and I want your permission to marry her.’ My father said, ‘Don’t ask me. Ask her. She knows what she wants.’
“When I was getting ready to get engaged, we went to see my uncle, who was sick in bed. He said to my husband-to-be, ‘You treat that girl real good because if I had a son, I was going to take her for my son. I’m going to let you have her, but I want you to treat her real good.’ And my husband said, ‘Don’t worry, I will treat her good.’
“My father thought that being that Sam came from America, ‘I’m sure he’s very rich.’ That wasn’t so. He wasn’t rich. He didn’t have a penny to his name.
“I came home and I told my mother about it, and she thought I was crazy. She said, ‘You’re going to marry a guy that is too old for you.’ And he was. He was forty and I was twenty-two. I just liked him. He was a very nice person, a very nice man. He used to treat me like a queen. We got married right away, I mean, as soon as I knew him. And he was a nice, nice, person, very nice, very warm. He used to love me so much that I had to go with him.”
“My father was very modern. He was a very religious man, he was a Hazzan [Cantor], but he was very, very bright, very open minded. My mother was a bit in the other side, you know, a little bit old-fashioned.
“It wasn’t very pleasant, to leave your father and mother. But the American boys didn’t come to stay in Rhodes. They just came to see their parents, to visit, and go back. But the thing is that my mother and father came to America, a few years after, and my older brother. Rhodes was getting very bad for the Jewish people.”
© 2004 Jewish Women’s Archive. Photographs by Joan Roth.