History of the Jews in the Netherlands

History of the Jews in the Netherlands

Most history of the Jews in the Netherlands was generated between the end of the 16th century and World War II.

The area now known as the Netherlands was once part of the Spanish Empire but in 1581, the northern Dutch provinces declared independence. A principal motive was a wish to practice Protestant Christianity, then forbidden under Spanish rule, and so religious tolerance was effectively an important constitutional element of the newly-independent state. This inevitably attracted the attention of Jews who were religiously oppressed in many parts of the world.


History of Jews in the Netherlands

Early history

Jews seem to have lived in the province of Holland before 1593; a few references to them are in existence which distinctly mention them as present in the other provinces at an earlier date, especially after their expulsion from France in 1321 and the persecutions in Hainaut and the Rhine provinces. The first Jews in the province of Gelderland were reported in 1325. Jews have been settled in Nijmegen, the oldest settlement, in Doesburg, Zutphen, and in Arnhem since 1404. In 1349 the Duke of Guelders was authorized by the Emperor Louis IV of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany to receive Jews in his duchy. They paid a tax, granted services, and were protected by the law. In Arnhem, where a Jew is mentioned as a physician, the magistrate defended them against the hostilities of the populace. When Jews settled in the diocese of Utrecht does not appear. (However, rabbinical records regarding kashrut - Jewish dietary laws - speculated that the Jewish community in Utrecht dated back to Roman times.) In 1444 they were expelled from the city of Utrecht, but they were tolerated in the village of Maarssen, two hours distant, though their condition was not fortunate. Until 1789 no Jew might pass the night in Utrecht; for this reason the community of Maarssen was one of the most important in the Netherlands. Jews were admitted to Zeeland by Albert, Duke of Bavaria.

In 1477, by the marriage of Mary of Burgundy to the Archduke Maximilian, son of Emperor Frederick III, the Netherlands were united to Austria and its possessions passed to the crown of Spain. In the sixteenth century, owing to the persecutions of Charles V and Philip II of Spain, the Netherlands became involved in a series of desperate and heroic struggles. Charles V had, in 1522, issued a proclamation against Christians who were suspected of being lax in the faith and against Jews who had not been baptized in Gelderland and Utrecht; and he repeated these edicts in 1545 and 1549. In 1571 the Duke of Alba notified the authorities of Arnhem that all Jews living there should be seized and held until the disposition to be made of them had been determined upon. In 1581, however, the memorable declaration of independence (Act of Abjuration) issued by the deputies of the United Provinces deposed Philip from his sovereignty; religious peace was guaranteed by article 13 of the Unie van Utrecht. As a consequence the persecuted Jews of Spain and Portugal turned toward Holland as a place of refuge.

Marranos and Sephardic Jews

The Sephardim (so-called Spanish Jews) had been expelled from Spain and Portugal years earlier, but many remained in the Iberian peninsula, practising Judaism in secret (see crypto-Jews or Marranos). The newly independent Dutch provinces provided an ideal opportunity for the crypto-Jews to re-establish themselves and practise their religion openly, and they migrated, most notably to Amsterdam. Collectively, they brought trading influence to the city as they established in Amsterdam. Jews also brought the Atlantic slave trade to the Netherlands, see Jews and the slave trade.

In 1593 these Marranos arrived in Amsterdam after having been refused admission to Middelburg and Haarlem. They became strenuous supporters of the House of Orange and were in return protected by the stadholder. At this time the commerce of Holland was increasing; a period of development had arrived, particularly for Amsterdam, to which Jews had carried their goods and from which they maintained their relations with foreign lands. Thus they had connections with the Levant and with Morocco. The Emperor of Morocco had an ambassador at The Hague named Samuel Pallache (1591–1626), through whose mediation, in 1620, a commercial understanding was arrived at with the Barbary States.

In particular, the relations between the Dutch and South America were established by Jews; they contributed to the establishment of the Dutch West Indies Company in 1621, of the directorate of which some of them were members. The ambitious schemes of the Dutch for the conquest of Brazil were carried into effect through Francisco Ribiero, a Portuguese captain, who is said to have had Jewish relations in Holland. As some years afterward the Dutch in Brazil appealed to Holland for craftsmen of all kinds, many Jews went to Brazil; about 600 Jews left Amsterdam in 1642, accompanied by two distinguished scholars - Isaac Aboab da Fonseca and Moses Raphael de Aguilar. In the struggle between Holland and Portugal for the possession of Brazil the Dutch were supported by the Jews.

With various countries in Europe also the Jews of Amsterdam established commercial relations. In a letter dated November 25, 1622, King Christian IV of Denmark invites Jews of Amsterdam to settle in Glückstadt, where, among other privileges, the free exercise of their religion would be assured to them.

Interior of the Amsterdam Esnoga, the synagogue for the Portuguese-Israelite (Sephardic) community which was inaugurated August 2, 1675, and is still being used by the Jewish community.

Besides merchants, a great number of physicians were among the Spanish Jews in Amsterdam: Samuel Abravanel, David Nieto, Elijah Montalto, and the Bueno family; Joseph Bueno was consulted in the illness of Prince Maurice (April, 1623). Jews were admitted as students at the university, where they studied medicine as the only branch of science which was of practical use to them, for they were not permitted to practise law, and the oath they would be compelled to take excluded them from the professorships. Neither were Jews taken into the trade-guilds: a resolution passed by the city of Amsterdam in 1632 (the cities being autonomous) excluded them. Exceptions, however, were made in the case of trades which stood in peculiar relations to their religion: printing, bookselling, the selling of meat, poultry, groceries, and drugs. In 1655 a Jew was, exceptionally, permitted to establish a sugar-refinery. One particular Sephardic Jew also stood out during that time: his name was Benedictus de Spinoza (or Baruch Spinoza). He was excommunicated from the Jewish community in 1656 after speaking out his ideas concerning (the nature of) God in his famous work Ethics.


Many Ashkenazim (so-called "German Jews") were also attracted to the newly independent Dutch provinces, especially near the end of the 17th century. However, the majority were displaced migrants escaping persecution in other parts of northern Europe, in particular the violence of the Thirty Year War (1618–1648) and the Chmielnicki Uprising in Poland in 1648. Because most of the immigrants were poor, they were less welcome. Their arrival in considerable number threatened the economic status of Amsterdam in particular, and with few exceptions they were turned away. Generally, they settled in rural areas where they subsisted typically as pedlars and hawkers. The result was that a large number of small Jewish communities existed throughout the Dutch provinces.

Over time, many of these German Jews attained prosperity through retail trading and by diamond-cutting, in which latter industry they retained the monopoly until about 1870. When William IV was proclaimed stadholder (1747) the Jews found another protector like William III. He stood in very close relations with the head of the DePinto family, at whose villa, Tulpenburg, near Ouderkerk, he and his wife paid more than one visit. In 1748, when a French army was at the frontier and the treasury was empty, De Pinto collected a large sum and presented it to the state. Van Hogendorp, the secretary of state, wrote to him: "You have saved the state." In 1750 De Pinto arranged for the conversion of the national debt from a 4 to a 3% basis.

Under the government of William V the country was troubled by internal dissensions; the Jews, however, remained loyal to him. As he entered the legislature on the day of his majority, March 8, 1766, everywhere in the synagogues services of thanks-giving were held. William V did not forget his Jewish subjects. On June 3, 1768, he visited both the German and the Portuguese synagogue; he attended the marriage of various prominent Jewish families.

The French Revolution and Napoleon

The year 1795 brought the results of the French Revolution to Holland, including emancipation for the Jews. The National Convention, on September 2, 1796, proclaimed this resolution: "No Jew shall be excluded from rights or advantages which are associated with citizenship in the Batavian Republic, and which he may desire to enjoy." Moses Moresco was appointed member of the municipality at Amsterdam; Moses Asser member of the court of justice there. The old conservatives, at whose head stood the chief rabbi Jacob Moses Löwenstamm, were not desirous of emancipation rights. Indeed, these rights were for the greater part of doubtful advantage; their culture was not so far advanced that they could frequent ordinary society; besides, this emancipation was offered to them by a party which had expelled their beloved Prince of Orange, to whose house they remained so faithful that the chief rabbi at The Hague, Saruco, was called the "Orange dominie"; the men of the old régime were even called "Orange cattle." Nevertheless, the Revolution appreciably ameliorated the condition of the Jews; in 1799 their congregations received, like the Christian congregations, grants from the treasury. In 1798 Jonas Daniel Meijer interceded with the French minister of foreign affairs in behalf of the Jews of Germany; and on Aug. 22, 1802, the Dutch ambassador, Schimmelpenninck, delivered a note on the same subject to the French minister.

From 1806 to 1810 Holland was ruled by Louis Bonaparte, whose intention it was to so amend the condition of the Jews that their newly acquired rights would become of real value to them; the shortness of his reign, however, prevented him from carrying out his plans. For example, after having changed the market-day in some cities (Utrecht and Rotterdam) from Saturday to Monday, he abolished the use of the "Oath More Judaico" in the courts of justice, and administered the same formula to both Christians and Jews. To accustom the latter to military services he formed two battalions of 803 men and 60 officers, all Jews, who had been until then excluded from military service, even from the town guard.

The union of Ashkenazim and Sephardim intended by Louis Napoleon did not come about. He had desired to establish schools for Jewish children, who were excluded from the public schools; even the Maatschappij tot Nut van 't Algemeen, founded in 1784, did not willingly receive them or admit Jews as members. Among the distinguished Jews of this period were Meier Littwald Lehemon, Asser, Capadose, and the physicians Heilbron, Davids (who introduced vaccination), Stein van Laun (tellurium), and many others.

19th century and early 20th century

The synagogue in the town of Veghel. The community in Veghel was a small mediene community, which reached its height around 1900. In the years following the community shrank to some 30 members, and was eventually completely destroyed during the Holocaust.

On November 30, 1813, William VI arrived at Scheveningen, and on December 11 he was solemnly crowned as King William I. Chief Rabbi Lehmans of The Hague organized a special thanksgiving service and implored God's protection for the allied armies on January 5, 1814. Many Jews fought at Waterloo, where thirty-five Jewish officers died. William VI occupied himself with the organization of the Jewish congregations. On February 26, 1814, a law was promulgated abolishing the French régime. The Jews continued to prosper in the independent Holland throughout the 19th century. By 1900, Amsterdam had 51,000 Jews with 12,500 paupers, The Hague 5,754 Jews with 846, Rotterdam 10,000 with 1,750, Groningen 2,400 with 613, Arnhem 1,224 with 349 ("Joodsche Courant," 1903, No. 44). The total population of the Netherlands in 1900 was 5,104,137, about 2% of whom were Jews.

The Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, remained a major Jewish population centre until World War II, to the extent that Amsterdam was called Jerusalem of the West by its Jews. The latter part of the 19th century, as well as the first decades of the 20th century, saw an ever-expanding Jewish community in Amsterdam after Jews from the mediene (the "country" Jews, Jews who were living outside the big cities - like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague -, across numerous small congregations throughout the Dutch countryside) left their communities en masse, searching for a "better life" in the larger cities.

Dutch Jews were relatively small part of the population and showed a strong tendency towards internal migration, which led to them being integrated in the socialist and liberal "pillars" before the Holocaust, rather than becoming part of a Jewish pillar.[1]

The number of Jews in the Netherlands grew substantially from the early 19th century up to World War II. Between 1830 and 1930, the Jewish presence in the Netherlands increased by almost 250% (numbers given by the Jewish communities to the Dutch Census).

Number of Jews in the Netherlands 1830 - 1966[2]
Year Number of Jews Source
1830 46,397 Census*
1840 52,245 Census*
1849 58,626 Census*
1859 63,790 Census*
1869 67,003 Census*
1879 81,693 Census*
1889 97,324 Census*
1899 103,988 Census*
1909 106,409 Census*
1920 115,223 Census*
1930 111,917 Census*
1941 154,887 Nazi occupation**
1947 14,346 Census*
1954 23,723 Commission on Jewish Demography***
1960 14,503 Census*
1966 29,675 Commission on Jewish Demography***

(*) Derived from those persons who stated "Judaism" as their religion in the Dutch Census

(**) Persons with at least one Jewish grandparent. In another Nazi census the total number of people with at least one Jewish grandparent in the Netherlands was put at 160,886: 135,984 people with 4 or 3 Jewish grandparents (counted as "full Jews"); 18,912 Jews with 2 Jewish grandparents ("half Jews"), of whom 3,538 were part of a Jewish congregation; 5,990 with 1 Jewish grandparent ("quarter Jews")[3]

(***) Membership numbers of Dutch Jewish congregations (only those who are Jewish according to the Halakha)

The Holocaust

Monument at Westerbork: Each stone represents one person who had stayed at Westerbork and died in a Nazi camp
This statue in Amsterdam commemorates Anne Frank, the Jewish diarist who went into hiding during the Second World War (and who is presumably represented by a stone at Westerbork)

In 1939, there were some 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands, among them some 25,000 German-Jewish refugees who had fled Germany in the 1930s (other sources claim that some 34,000 Jewish refugees entered the Netherlands between 1933 and 1940, mostly from Germany and Austria [4]). The Nazi occupation force put the number of (racially) Dutch Jews in 1941 at some 154,000. In the Nazi census, some 121,000 persons declared they were members of the (Ashkenazi) Dutch-Israelite community; 4,300 persons declared they were members of the (Sephardic) Portuguese-Israelite community. Some 19,000 persons reported having two Jewish grandparents (although it is generally believed a proportion of this number had in fact three Jewish grandparents, but declined to state that number in the fear they would be seen as Jews instead of half-Jews by the Nazi authorities). Some 6,000 persons reported having one Jewish grandparent. Some 2,500 persons, who were counted in the census as Jewish, were part of a Christian church, mostly Dutch Reformed, Calvinist Reformed or Roman Catholic.

In 1941, the majority of Dutch Jews were living in Amsterdam. The census in 1941 gives an indication of the geographical spread of Dutch Jews at the beginning of World War II (province; number of Jews - this number is not based on the racial standards by the Nazis, but by what the persons themselves declared to be in the population census):

In 1945, only about 35,000 of them were still alive. The exact number of "full Jews" who survived the Holocaust is estimated to be 34,379 (of whom 8,500 were part of a mixed marriage and thus spared from deportation and possible death in the Nazi concentration camps); the number of "half Jews" who were present in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War in 1945 is estimated to be 14,545, the number of "quarter Jews" 5,990.[3] Some 75% of the Dutch-Jewish population perished, an unusually high percentage compared with other occupied countries in western Europe.[5] Factors that influenced the great number of people perished were the fact that the Netherlands was not under a military regime, because the queen fled to England, and a shortage of hiding places. The Netherlands is a densely populated country, so there was less opportunity to survive in forests or other natural hiding places, for example.

During the first year of the occupation of the Netherlands, Jews were forced to register with the authorities and were banned from certain occupations. Starting in January 1942, some Dutch Jews were forced to move to Amsterdam; others were directly deported to Westerbork, a concentration camp near the small village of Hooghalen which had been founded in 1939 by the Dutch government to give shelter to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, but would fulfill the function of transit camp to the Nazi destruction camps in Middle and Eastern Europe during World War II.

All non-Dutch Jews were also sent to Westerbork. Additionally, over 15,000 Jews were sent to labor camps. Deportations of Jews from the Netherlands to Poland and Germany began on 15 June 1942 and ended on 13 September 1944. Ultimately some 101,000 Jews were deported in 98 transports from Westerbork to Auschwitz (57,800; 65 transports), Sobibor (34,313; 19 transports), Bergen-Belsen (3,724; 8 transports) and Theresienstadt (4,466; 6 transports), where most of them were murdered. Another 6,000 Jews were deported from other locations (like Vught) in the Netherlands to concentration camps in Germany, Poland and Austria (like Mauthausen). Only 5,200 survived. The Dutch underground hid an estimated number of Jews of some 25,000-30,000; eventually, an estimated 16,500 Jews managed to survive the war by hiding. Some 7,000 to 8,000 survived by fleeing to countries like Spain, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, or by being married to non-Jews (which saved them from deportation and possible death). At the same time, there was substantial collaboration from the Dutch population including the Amsterdam city administration, the Dutch municipal police, and Dutch railway workers who all helped round up and deport Jews.

One of the best known Holocaust victims in the Netherlands is Anne Frank. Along with her sister, Margot Frank, she died from typhus in March 1945 in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, due to unsanitary living conditions and confinement by Nazis. Anne Frank's mother, Edith Frank-Holländer, was starved to death by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank, survived the war. Dutch victims of the Holocaust include Etty Hillesum,[6] and Abraham Icek Tuschinski.

In contrast to many other countries where all aspects of Jewish communities and culture were eradicated during the Shoah, a remarkably large proportion of rabbinic records survived in Amsterdam, making the history of Dutch Jewry unusually well documented.


The Jewish-Dutch population after the Second World War is marked by certain significant changes: emigration; a low birth rate; and a high intermarriage rate. After the Second World War and the devastations which were caused by the Holocaust, thousands of surviving Jews migrated to Israel (still home to some 6,000 Dutch Jews) and the United States. In 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War in the Netherlands, the total number of Jews as counted in the population census was just 14,346 (down from a count of 154,887 by the German occupation force in 1941). Later, this number was adjusted by Jewish organisations to some 24,000 Jews living in the Netherlands in 1954 - nevertheless an enormous decrease compared to the number of Jews counted in 1941 - a number which was also disputed as the German occupation force counted Jews on basis of race, which meant that for example hundreds of Christians of Jewish heritage were also included in the Nazi census (according to Raul Hilberg in his book 'Perpetrators Victims Bystanders: the Jewish Catastrophe, 1933-1945', "the Netherlands ... [had] 1,572 Protestants [of Jewish heritage in 1943] ... There were also some 700 Catholic Jews living in the Netherlands [during the Nazi occupation] ...")

In 1954, the geographical spread of Dutch Jews in the Netherlands was as follows (province; number of Jews):

1960s and 1970s

The 1960s and 1970s saw a lowering birth rate among Dutch Jews, while intermarriage increased; was the intermarriage rate among Jewish males 41% and among Jewish women 28% in the period of 1945-1949, figures from the 1990s saw an increase of intermarriage to some 52% of the total number of marriages among Jews. Among so-called father Jews, the intermarriage rate is as high as 80%.[7] Some within the Jewish community try to counter this trend, creating possibilities for (single) Jews to come in contact with other (single) Jews, like the dating site Jingles, Jentl en Jewell. According to a research by the Joods Maatschappelijk Werk (Jewish Social Service), a large number of Dutch Jews has received an academic education, and more Jewish Dutch women are in the labor force compared to non-Jewish Dutch women.

1980s and onwards

The Jewish population in the Netherlands became more internationalized, with an influx of mostly Israeli and Russian Jews during the last decades. Approximately one in three Dutch Jews has a non-Dutch background. The number of Israeli Jews living in the Netherlands (concentrated in Amsterdam) runs in the thousands (estimates run from 5,000 to 7,000 Israeli immigrants in the Netherlands, although some claims go as high as 12,000 [8]), although only a relatively small number of these Israeli Jews is connected to one of the religious Jewish institutions in the Netherlands. Some 10,000 Dutch Jews have emigrated to Israel in the last couple of decades.

At present, there are approximately 41,000 to 45,000 people in the Netherlands who are either Jewish as defined by halakha (Rabbinic law), defined as having a Jewish mother (70% - approximately 30,000 persons) or who have a Jewish father (30% - some 10,000 - 15,000 persons; their number was estimated at 12,470 in April 2006).[9][10] Most Dutch Jews live in the major cities in the west of the Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht); some 44% of all Dutch Jews live in Amsterdam, which is considered the centre of Jewish life in the Netherlands. In 2000, 20% of the Jewish-Dutch population was 65 years or older; birth rates among Jews were low. An exception is the growing Orthodox Jewish population, especially in Amsterdam.

There are currently some 150 synagogues present in the Netherlands, of which some 50 are still used for religious services.[11] Large Jewish communities in the Netherlands are found in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague; smaller ones are found throughout the country, in Alkmaar, Almere, Amersfoort, Amstelveen, Bussum, Delft, Haarlem, Hilversum, Leiden, Schiedam, Utrecht and Zaandam in the western part of the country, in Breda, Eindhoven, Maastricht, Middelburg, Oosterhout and Tilburg in the southern part of the country, and in Aalten, Apeldoorn, Arnhem, Assen, Deventer, Doetinchem, Enschede, Groningen, Heerenveen, Hengelo, Leeuwarden, Nijmegen, Winterswijk, Zutphen and Zwolle in the eastern and northern parts of the country.


The Gerard Doustraat Synagogue in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Some 9,000 Dutch Jews, out of a total of 30,000 (some 30%), are connected to one of the seven major Jewish religious organizations. Smaller, independent synagogues exist as well.[citation needed]

Orthodox Judaism

A majority of the affiliated Jews in the Netherlands (Jews part of a Jewish community) are affiliated to the Nederlands Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (Dutch Israelite Church) (NIK), which can be classified as part of (Ashkenazi) Orthodox Judaism. The NIK has approximately 5,000 members, spread over 36 congregations (of whom 13 in Amsterdam and surroundings alone) in 4 jurisdictions (Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and the Interprovincial Rabbinate), making it considerably larger than the Union of Liberal Synagogues (LJG) and thirteen times as large as the Portuguese Israelite Religious Community (PIK). In Amsterdam alone, the NIK governs thirteen functioning synagogues. The NIK was founded in 1814, and at its height in 1877, it represented 176 Jewish communities. This went down to 139 communities prior to World War II, and 36 communities today. Besides governing some 36 congregations, the NIK also holds responsibility for more than 200 Jewish cemeteries throughout the Netherlands (on a total number of Jewish cemeteries of 250).

In 1965 Rabbi Meir Just was appointed Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, a position he held until his death in April 2010.[12]

The small Portugees-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (Portuguese Israelite Religious Community) (PIK), which is Sefardic, has a membership of some 270 families, and is concentrated in Amsterdam. It was founded in 1870. Throughout history, Sefardic Jews in the Netherlands, in contrast to their Ashkenazi co-religionists, have concentrated in only a few communities: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Naarden and Middelburg. Only the one in Amsterdam has survived the Holocaust and is still active.

There are three Jewish schools in Amsterdam, all situated in the Buitenveldert neighbourhood (Rosh Pina, Maimonides and Cheider). One of these (Cheider) is affiliated with Haredi Orthodox Judaism. Chabad has some eleven rabbis, in Almere, Amersfoort, Amstelveen, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Maastricht, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The head shluchim in the Netherlands are rabbis I. Vorst and Binyomin Jacobs. The latter is chief rabbi of the Interprovinciaal Opperrabbinaat (the Dutch Rabbinical Organisation) and vice-president of Cheider. Chabad serves approximately 2,500 Jews in Holland, and an unknown number in the rest of the Netherlands.

Reform Judaism

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Though the number of Dutch Jews is decreasing[citation needed], the last decades have seen a growth of Liberal Jewish communities throughout the country. Introduced by German-Jewish refugees in the early 1930s, nowadays some 3,500 Jews in the Netherlands are linked to one of several Liberal Jewish synagogues throughout the country. Liberal synagogues are present in Amsterdam (founded in 1931; 725 families - some 1,700 members), Rotterdam (1968), The Hague (1959; 324 families), Tilburg (1981), Utrecht (1993), Arnhem (1965; 70 families), Enschede (1972), Almere (2003) and Heerenveen (2000; some 30 members); six rabbis are present to serve the several communities. The Verbond voor Liberaal-Religieuze Joden in Nederland (LJG) (Union for Liberal-Religious Jews in the Netherlands) (to which all the communities mentioned above are part of) is affiliated to the World Union for Progressive Judaism. On October 29, 2006, the LJG changed its name to Nederlands Verbond voor Progressief Jodendom (NVPJ) (Dutch Union for Progressive Judaism). The NVPJ has six rabbis: Ruben Bar-Ephraïm, Menno ten Brink, Sonny Herman, David Lilienthal, Awraham Soetendorp and Edward van Voolen.

A new Liberal synagogue is being built in Amsterdam, 300 meters away from the current synagogue. This is needed since the current building became too small for the growing community. The Liberal synagogue in Amsterdam receives approximately 30 calls a month by people whom wish to convert to Judaism. The number of people actually converting is much lower. The number of converts to Liberal Judaism may be as high as 200 to 400, on an existing community of approximately 3,500.

Amsterdam is also home to Beit Ha'Chidush, a progressive religious community which was founded in 1995 by Jews with secular as well as religious backgrounds who felt it was time for a more open, diverse and renewed Judaism. The community accepts members from all kinds of backgrounds, including homosexuals and half-Jews (including Jews with a Jewish father, the first Jewish community in the Netherlands to do so). Beit Ha'Chidush has links to Jewish Renewal in the United States, and Liberal Judaism in the United Kingdom. Rabbi for the community is German-born Elisa Klapheck, the first female rabbi of the Netherlands. The community uses the Uilenburger synagogue in the center of Amsterdam.

Klal Israël is an independent Jewish congregation founded in the end of 2005, since 2009 affiliated with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation. It holds its roots in Progressive Judaism. The congregation holds services in two synagogues, once in every two weeks in Delft.

Conservative Judaism

Masorti Judaism was introduced in the Netherlands in 2004, with the founding of a Masorti community in the city of Almere. In 2005 Masorti Nederland (Masorti Netherlands) had some 75 members, primarily based in Almere, with members also present in Weesp, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Leiden.

Education and Youth

Jewish schools

There are three Jewish schools present in the Netherlands, all located in Amsterdam. They are all affiliated to the Nederlands Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap. Rosj Pina is a school for Jewish children in the age of 4 through 12. Education is mixed (boys and girls together) despite its affiliation to the Orthodox NIK. It is the largest Jewish school in the Netherlands. As of 2007 it has 285 pupils enrolled.[13] Maimonides is the largest Jewish high school in the Netherlands. It had some 160 pupils enrolled in 2005. Although founded as a Jewish school and also affiliated to the NIK, it has a secular curriculum.[14] Cheider presents education to Jewish children of all ages, and is the only one of three schools which holds an ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) background.Girls and boys are given separate education in separate classes. The school has some 200 pupils.[15]

Jewish youth

There are several Jewish organisations in the Netherlands focused on Jewish youth. They include:

Jewish health care

There are two Jewish nursing homes in the Netherlands. One, Beth Shalom, is situated in Amsterdam at two locations, Amsterdam Buitenveldert and Amsterdam Osdorp. There are some 350 elderly Jews currently residing in Beth Shalom.[16] Another Jewish nursing home, the Mr. L.E. Visserhuis, is located in The Hague.[17] It is home to some 50 elderly Jews. Both nursing homes are aligned to Orthodox Judaism; kosher food is available. Both nursing homes have their own synagogue.

There is a Jewish wing at the Amstelland Hospital in Amstelveen. It is unique in Western Europe in that Jewish patients are cared with according to Orthodox Jewish law; kosher food is the only type of food available at the hospital.[18] The Jewish wing was founded after the fusion of the Nicolaas Tulp Hospital and the (Jewish) Central Israelite Patient Care in 1978.

The Sinai Centrum (Sinai Center) is a Jewish psychiatric hospital located in Amsterdam, Amersfoort (primary location) and Amstelveen, which focuses on mental healthcare, as well as caring for and guiding persons who are mentally disabled.[19] It is the only Jewish psychiatric hospital currently operating in Europe. Originally focusing on the Jewish segment of the Dutch population, and especially on Holocaust survivors who were faced with mental problems after the Second World War, nowadays the Sinai Centrum also provides care for non-Jewish victims of war and genocide.

Jewish media

Jewish television and radio in the Netherlands is produced by NIKMedia. Part of NIKMedia is the Joodse Omroep, which broadcasts documentaries, stories and interviews on a variety of Jewish topics every Sunday and Monday on the Nederland 2 television channel (except from the end of May until the beginning of September). NIKMedia is also responsible for broadcasting music and interviews on Radio 5.

The Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad is the oldest still functioning (Jewish) weekly in the Netherlands, with some 6,000 subscribers. It is an important news source for many Dutch Jews, focusing on Jewish topics on a national as well as on an international level. The Joods Journaal (Jewish Weekly) [20] was founded in 1997 and is seen as a more "glossy" magazine in comparison to the NIW. It gives a lot of attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Another Jewish magazine published in the Netherlands is the Hakehillot Magazine,[21] issued by the NIK, the Jewish Community of Amsterdam and the PIK. Serving a more liberal Jewish audience, the NVPJ publishes its own magazine, Levend Joods Geloof (Living Jewish Faith), six times a year;[22] serving this same audience, Beit Ha'Chidush publishes its own magazine as well, called Chidushim.[23]

There are a couple of Jewish websites focusing on bringing Jewish news to the Dutch Jewish community. By far the most prominent is Joods.nl, which gives attention to the large Jewish communities in the Netherlands as well as to the Mediene, to Israel as well as to Jewish culture and youth.


Amsterdam's Jewish community today numbers about 15,000 people[citation needed]. A large amount lives in the neighbourhoods of Buitenveldert, the Oud-Zuid and the Riverneighbourhood. Buitenveldert is considered a popular neighbourhood to live in; this is due to its low crime-rate and because it is considered to be a quiet neighbourhood.

Especially in the neighbourhood of Buitenveldert there's a sizeable Jewish community. In this area, Kosher food is widely available. There are several Kosher restaurants, two bakeries, Jewish-Israeli shops, a pizzeria and some supermarkets host a Kosher department. This neighourbood also has a Jewish elderly home, an Orthodox synagogue and three Jewish schools.

Cultural distinctions

Uniquely in the Netherlands, Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities coexisted in close proximity. Having different cultural traditions, the communities remained generally separate but their geographical closeness resulted in cross-cultural influences not found elsewhere. Notably, in the early days when small groups of Jews were attempting to establish communities, they were bound to use the services of rabbis and other officials from either culture, depending on who was available.

The close proximity of the two cultures inevitably led to intermarriage at a higher rate than was known elsewhere, and in consequence many Jews of Dutch descent have family names that seem to belie their religious affiliation. Particularly unusual, all Dutch Jews have for centuries named children after the children’s grandparents, which is otherwise considered exclusively a Sephardi tradition. (Ashkenazim elsewhere traditionally avoid naming a child after a living relative.)

In 1812, while the Netherlands was under Napoleonic rule, all Dutch residents (including Jews) were obliged to register surnames with the civic authorities, a practice which among Jews had previously been followed only by Sephardim. As a result of the compulsory registration and other extant records, it became clear that while the Ashkenazim had been avoiding civic registration, many had nevertheless been using an unofficial system of surnames for hundreds of years.

Also under Napoleonic rule, in 1809 a law was passed obliging Dutch Jewish schools to teach in Dutch and Hebrew. This effected the exclusion of other languages and in due course, Yiddish, the lingua franca of Ashkenazim, and Portuguese, the previous language of the Sephardim, practically ceased to be spoken among Dutch Jews. Certain Yiddish words have been adopted into the Dutch language, especially in Amsterdam (which is also called Mokum, from the Hebrew word for town or place, makom), where the historically large Jewish community has had a significant influence on the local dialect. There are several other Hebrew words that can be found in the local dialect including: Mazel which is the Hebrew word for luck or fortune; Tof which is Tov in Hebrew meaning good (as in מזל טוב‎ - Mazel tov), and Googem in Hebrew Chacham or Hakham, meaning wise, sly, witty or intelligent, where the Dutch g is pronounced similarly to the 8th letter of the Hebrew Alphabet the guttural Chet or Heth.

Economic influences

Jews played a major role in the development of Dutch colonial territories and international trade, and many Jews in former colonies have Dutch ancestry. However, all the major colonial powers were competing fiercely for control of trade routes; the Dutch were relatively unsuccessful and during the 18th century, their economy went into decline. Many of the Ashkenazim in the rural areas were no longer able to subsist and they migrated to the cities in search of work. This caused a large number of small Jewish communities to collapse completely (ten adult males were required for major religious ceremonies). Entire communities then migrated to the cities where the Jewish populations swelled explosively. In 1700, the Jewish population of Amsterdam was 6,200, with Ashkenazim and Sephardim in almost equal numbers. By 1795 the figure was 20,335, the vast majority being poor Ashkenazim.

Because Jews were obliged to live in specified Jewish quarters, there was severe overcrowding. By the mid-nineteenth century, many were migrating to other countries where the advancement of emancipation offered better opportunities (see Chuts).

See also


  1. ^ Hans Knippenberg (May 2002). "Assimilating Jews in Dutch nation-building: the missing 'pillar'". Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie 93 (2): 191–207. doi:10.1111/1467-9663.00194. 
  2. ^ 2004 data drawn from 2001 DEMOS report. Accessed 18th July 2007 (Dutch)
  3. ^ a b DEMOS March 2001. Accessed July 18th 2007 (Dutch)
  4. ^ Askhenazi Jews in Amsterdam. Edward van Voolen. Accessed 21st July 2007
  5. ^ JCH Blom (July 1989). "The Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands: A Comparative Western European Perspective". European History Quarterly 19 (3): 333–351. doi:10.1177/026569148901900302. 
  6. ^ Frank, Evelyne. Avec Etty Hillesum : Dans la quête du bonheur, un chemin inattendu. Une lecture d'une vie bouleversée et des lettres de Westerbork, Genève: Labor et Fides, 2002. (ISBN 978-2830910476)
  7. ^ Marriage among contemporary Dutch Jews. DEMOS. Accessed 18th November 2007 (Dutch)
  8. ^ Kleijwegt, Margalith (2007-07-14). Trots en schaamte (Pride and shame). Vrij Nederland (Dutch)
  9. ^ Demographic Outlook - Jews in the Netherlands. Demos. Accessed 8th December 2006 (Dutch)
  10. ^ Father-Jews searching for their identity. IB Magazine. Accessed 7th June 2007 (Dutch)
  11. ^ Churchbuildings are disappearing. Telegraaf, January 17th 2008. Accessed 17th January 2008 (Dutch).
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Website Co-determination Council Rosj Pina. Accessed 13th May 2007 (Dutch)
  14. ^ Website Maimonides Jewish High School. Accessed 13th May 2007 (Dutch)
  15. ^ Website Cheider. Accessed 13th May 2007
  16. ^ Jewish nursing home Beth Shalom. Accessed 15th May 2007 (Dutch)
  17. ^ Jewish nursing home Mr. L.E. Visserhuis. Accessed 15th May 2007 (Dutch)
  18. ^ Jewish Wing Amstelland Hospital. Accessed 7th June 2007
  19. ^ Sinai Center Accessed 12th July 2007 (Dutch)
  20. ^ Joods Journaal. Accessed 20th July 2007(Dutch)
  21. ^ Hakehillot Magazine. Accessed 12th July 2007 (Dutch)
  22. ^ Levend Joods Geloof. Accessed 12th July 2007 (Dutch)
  23. ^ Chidushim Magazine. Accessed 12th July 2007 (Dutch)

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