62 years later, couple re-establishes ties to wedding site

seattle (ap) | Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the white-haired Jewish couple has been helping out at the Islamic School of Seattle — first protecting against wrongheaded retaliation, then helping improve the playground.

Turns out Alice and Arthur Siegal have long had a special attachment to the building. They married there 62 years ago last month, when it was the Seattle Talmud Torah, a Jewish day school.

Arthur Siegal, 85, mentioned that connection in May, when he organized a group from the couple’s synagogue, Temple De Hirsch Sinai, to distribute 100 cubic yards of wood chips at the school playground.

“We just got all excited about it,” said Ann El-Moslimany, a director at the school.

So she and co-administrator Aishah Kalinoski invited the Siegals to celebrate their anniversary at the school, with cake and refreshments.

“Muslims and Jews have always gotten along until recently with the state of Israel,” El-Moslimany said. “But as far as the religion and what we believe in, we’re both people of faith, and we both believe in one God.”

The Siegals, whose interest in Islam began after the attacks, found it very fitting. They liked the idea of celebrating their union in the spot where they had recited vows before a rabbi under a chuppah on June 14, 1942.

“I’m just really very touched,” said Alice Siegal, 80. “I think anything we can do to get to know each other better is wonderful.”

The celebration, complete with cake and balloons, was “very, very nice,” she said. “It was just very pleasant. We toured the building and learned more about the school.”

The Jewish school was built in 1935. When local Jewish families moved away, the building became a welfare office and served other purposes until 1981, until it was bought by the Islamic group.

The Star of David is still on the wall, El-Moslimany said, noting that she has thought of moving a wooden sign bearing the school’s motto — “O Lord, increase my knowledge” — so that the star is visible.

“We think of the Jews as our cousins in faith,” said El-Moslimany, who belongs to Children of Abraham, an interfaith group of Muslims, Jews and Christians. “Certainly we’re all children of the same God.”

Alice Siegal said she grew up in Seattle in an Orthodox family, which considered Islam “another religion in an exotic land” if it considered Islam at all. Arthur grew up in a small town in New Mexico, one of a handful of Jews among Catholics.

After 9/11, the couple began volunteering as guardians at the school. They’ve since attended interfaith forums and a fund-raiser for earthquake victims in Iran.

“We all live in one world. There’s no reason why we can’t get to know each other better and live in peace,” Alice said.

The Siegals met at a beach party in West Seattle. Alice was 17, with light brown curls, and Arthur, 22, had just moved to the Northwest after landing a job with Boeing.

“She showed up with a boyfriend,” he recalled.

“No, no, he wasn’t a boyfriend. I had met him that afternoon at Madrona Beach,” she said.

The courtship began when he threw firecrackers at her.

“I had to get her attention,” he explained.

They married 11 months later and now have two children, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.