2. Jews in the ‘Mediene’

In the eighteenth century, in addition to ‘Mokum’ the ‘Mediene’ or provincial Jewry took shape. All the Jewish congregations (the ‘killes’) outside Amsterdam formed part of it, and also those in Heenvliet, Middelharnis, Ommen and Hoorn. To hold a service each ‘kille’ needed a minimum of ten men aged 13 or over. Usually a room in a dwelling house was used for the service. Synagogues were built later (they are marked on the maps in red ink). A ‘mikva’ or ritual bath was necessary and a school was desirable.

Every Jewish congregation was expected to purchase and administer its own facilities, using taxes, gifted money and fines. The elected administrators (the ‘parnassim’) drew up rules, which had to be approved by the local authorities. Depending on the amount of money available a congregation could pay for a rabbi, a cantor, a primary school teacher and a ritual slaughterer. Some of these functions could be combined.
In 1796 Jews were given equal civil rights and were allowed to live where they liked. Thereafter a large number of new Jewish congregations were founded throughout The Netherlands. The ‘mediene’ reached its apogee after the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1869 in Heenvliet there lived 54 Jews, in Middelharnis 152, in Ommen 72 and in Hoorn 433.

The decline of the ‘mediene’ began at the end of the nineteenth century, except in places which were industrialising. Parallel with Jewish institutions cultural and political associations sprang up, some of a Zionist character. In the first decades of the twentieth century many small ‘killes’ lost their autonomy or were abolished, as was the case in Heenvliet. In the nineteen thirties the synagogue in Hoorn was only used on special occasions. More than ever Amsterdam was the centre of gravity for the Jews in The Netherlands.

Due to the Nazi terror during the years of occupation there was little left of Jewish life in the ‘mediene’. After the war many former synagogues disappeared, although memorials were erected later. The Ommen shul was sold and was demolished in 1951. That in Heenvliet was pulled down after the floods of 1953. At this location only part of the ‘mikva’ is still present. The synagogue in Hoorn was sold to the town council in 1953 and then demolished. After the war the synagogue in Middelharnis was used as a café, discotheque, and clothes shop. As late as the beginning of 2007 the old shul of the island of Goeree-Overflakkee was knocked down.

Kuijper, J., Provincie Zuid-Holland, Gemeente Heenvliet
Leeuwarden 1867

Kuijper, J., Provincie Zuid-Holland, Gemeente Middelharnis
Leeuwarden 1866

Kuijper, J., Provincie Noord-Holland, Gemeente Hoorn
Leeuwarden 1869

Kuijper, J., Provincie Overijssel, Gemeente Ommen
Leeuwarden 1867