The neighbourhood just east of the centre, near Waterlooplein is called Plantage or the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter (Jodenbuurt).
Jewish immigrants lived here from the 16th century onwards.
Only 28.000 Amsterdam Jews out of 120.000 survived the Second World War.
The few buildings they left behind: the Portuguese Synagogue, the Holland Theatre and the Jewish Museum, tell their the Jewish history of Amsterdam.
View Amsterdam Jewish Quarter in a larger map
There is no electricity and no heating in the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. A thousand candles light up the ‘Esnoga’. Just like it’s always been.
The floors are covered with fine sand to keep moist from penetrating and destroying the (original!) wooden floorboards, a technique commonly used in the 17th century in The Netherlands.
Sephardic Jews in Amsterdam
The Amsterdam Portuguese Synagogue was built in 1675 by so called ‘Sephardic Jews’.
Sephardic Jews came from Spain and Portugal, where they had fled from during the (Catholic) Spanish Inquisition.
Around the year 1700, over 10.000 Jews lived in Amsterdam
Many of the Jews coming from the South of Europe brought along interesting trade contracts and contacts with the Mediterranean.
Jewish immigrants in Amsterdam force behind “Golden Age”
Eventually even financing the Dutch East Indies Company (Jews were not allowed to enter many other professions besides banking), the Sephardic Jews were a huge instigator of the famous Dutch ‘Golden Century’.
The wealth and influence of the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam was noticed when the
Dutch administrators allowed them to build their own Synagogue (at a time when even the Catholics were not allowed to have their own sermons out in the open).
The biggest Synagogue in the world
The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam was the biggest Synagogue in the world at the time: a sober structure, almost protestant looking, as was fashion at the time
Visiting the Amsterdam Portuguese Synagogue
You can visit the Synagogue every day from 10.00 till 16.00, except Saturday. On Jewish holidays (Sabbath, Saturdays) there are Jewish services.
The Portuguese Synagogue is part of the Jewish-orthodox community. This means that during services, women and men sit separate and prayers are in Hebrew. Women need to wear long sleeved shirts. Men are to wear a kippah (they can borrow one).
Inside the Portuguese Synagogue a rich library is housed. The Ets Haim collection was founded in 1616, which makes it the oldest functioning Jewish Library in the world.
Visiting the Jewish Library
The library can be visited by appointment only.
Amsterdam Jewish Historical Museum
The Amsterdam Jewish Historical Museum was founded before the Second World War, in 1932 and reopened after the war in 1955.
Since 1985 it is located in the four former Synagogues in the Amsterdam Plantage neighbourhood. On show is only a small part of the grand collection: art made by Jewish artists, Jewish religious art, ceremonial objects and war documents
The Amsterdam Jewish History Museum is worth a visit mostly because of its large collection of books, brochures, magazines, jewish magazines and films (documentaries), photography and musical collection that is on show.
Children might enjoy a visit to the Children’s Museum at the Jewish History Museum in the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter. Kids play in a typical 3-storey large Jewish house and playfully learn more about Jewish life and traditions.
You can visit the museum also on-line on the website of the Kindermuseum.
The Hollandsche Schouwburg (Holland Theatre) was a glamourous theatre located in the Amsterdam Jewish Quarter, dating back to 1892.
In 1941, the German occupants renamed it ‘Jewish Theatre’.
From August 1942 to November 1943, Jews from Amsterdam were taken off the streets and out of their houses during ‘razzias’ and imprisoned at the Holland Theatre.
In unhygienic and inhumane conditions they waited days and even weeks to be deported to Camp Westerbork in East-Netherlands. From there, most were transported to concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
After the war, the Theatre transformed slowly into a monument for the murdered Jews of the Netherlands. On one of the walls are engraved the 6.700 family names of the Jews deported from The Netherlands.