2. Synagogues in Amsterdam

This undated map is probably from about 1860, judging from the appearance of the city. The map shows the main buildings in vertical elevation. On the Houtmarkt, nowadays the Jonas Daniel Meierplein, can be seen the ‘Portugesche Synagoge’ (Portuguese Synagogue (no. 59)) or ‘Snoge’, built in 1675, and the ‘Hoofd Synagoge’ (Main Synagogue (no. 58)) or ‘Grote Sjoel’ (Great Shul), built in 1671. Jews in Amsterdam were not obliged to live in a ghetto, they could even buy the status of burgher, but were not allowed to be members of a guild or keep a shop. Jews were forbidden to convert Christians and there was an absolute prohibition on sexual relations between Jews and Christians.

The Portuguese synagogue was that used by the Sephardic Jews, who were often wealthy and who settled in Amsterdam from 1600 onwards. In Spain and Portugal they were forced to become Catholics, but in Amsterdam they resumed an openly Jewish way of life. In addition to the proud Sephardic community a large Ashkenazi community sprang up; this consisted of mainly poor Jews who fled German and Eastern European regions in several waves. This group spoke Yiddish, a language which greatly influenced the Amsterdam dialect. Three other High German synagogues, in which the Jewish Historical Museum is now housed, were later added to the ‘Hoofd Synagoge’.

In 1796 the Batavian Republic promulgated the ‘Decreet over den gelijkstaat der Joodsche met alle andere Burgers’ (Decree of equality of Jewish and other citizens). The Netherlands was virtually the only post-Napoleonic country in Europe which did not rescind Jewish emancipation. But many Jews remained at the bottom of the social and economic ladder. In the nineteenth century Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews had more contact with each other and intermarriage became more common. In 1869 the number of Jews in Mokum (Amsterdam) was 30,039, of a total of 281,502 Amsterdammers.

Sybrandi, J.D. & H. Parson, Nieuw Plan der Stad Amsterdam, Amsterdam n.d. (±1860)

Sybrandi, J.D. & H. Parson, Nieuw Plan der Stad Amsterdam, Amsterdam n.d. (±1860)