Amsterdam (15,000) is the focus of the Netherlands‘ Jewish community. There are medium-size communities in Rotterdam and The Hague, and small ones in Amersfoort, Arnhem, Bussum, Eindhoven, Enschede, Groningen, Haarlem, Hilversum, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Utrecht, and Zwolle. Contemporary Dutch Jewry is overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.
Prior to the Holocaust, 140,000 Jews were living in the Netherlands. During the 1930s, the community was active in helping Jews leave Germany, so that by the outbreak of the war, some 30,000 had found sanctuary in the Netherlands. The tragedy of Dutch Jewry during the Shoah was marked by a paradoxical response by the Dutch people. Many of the Dutch collaborated with the Germans, while many others strove to rescue their Jewish neighbors. By the war’s end, over 100,000 Dutch Jews had been murdered. Some 10,000, including 3,500 children, had been hidden until the danger passed.
The Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam
By Naomi Koopmans
The Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam is located in the very heart of the Dutch capital. Since the early 17th century until the beginning of World War II, it was one of the world’s major centers of Jewish life and culture. By 1940, more than 10 percent of Amsterdam’s residents were Jews. Their influence on Dutch society was palpable. Until today, the Dutch call their capital ‘Mokum’, a term that derives from the Yiddish word for ‘place’.
During the Middle Ages, even though Dutch Jews were socially, economically and professionally restricted, they enjoyed religious freedom to a great extent. This enabled them to build the imposing Portuguese Synagogue in 1675 (pictured). It still stands there in its authentic state. In November 2011, Queen Beatrix reinaugurated the compound following two years of renovation.
Today it is possibile to see the Ets Haim Jewish Library and to visit the underground treasure chambers. There, a collection of unique Jewish objects is exposed which surprisingly survived the war, although some of them were confiscated by the Nazi’s and taken to the Institute for Study of the Jewish Question in Frankfurt, Germany.
(Guided tours in English are operated, amongst others, by Jewish Amsterdam Tour)
Dutch Jewry is organized into three councils based on affiliation: Ashkenazi Orthodox, Reform, and Sephardi Orthodox. These councils are, respectively, the Nederlands-Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap, the Verbond van Liberaal Religieuze Joden, and the Portugees-Israelitisch Kergenootschap.
The Netherlands is the venue of much Zionist activity. WIZO and B’nai B’rith are present, as well as five youth movements, a student union, and Maccabi. A comprehensive welfare structure has been created in the post-war period. There is a Jewish hospital in Amstelveen and retirement homes in Amsterdam and Scheveningen.
1082 EJ Amsterdam
Amstelveenseweg 224 Amsterdam
31 (0) 20 6 757 636
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database