A Guide To Amsterdam's Jewish Cultural Quarter

The Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam
The Portuguese Synagogue, Amsterdam | © AAWJ Rietman/WikiCommons
Tom Coggins

In Amsterdam, the area between Nieuwmarkt and Plantage was historically known as Jodenbuurt (the Jewish Quarter). This neighborhood contains many historically important buildings that are currently preserved and managed by The Jewish Cultural Quarter, an organization that is dedicated to the conservation of Jewish culture within Amsterdam. All of these buildings can be accessed with a single ticket bought from any box office associated with the Jewish Cultural Quarter.

1. The Portuguese Synagogue

Library, Synagogue, Historical Landmark

Inside the Portuguese Synagogue
© Chajm Guski / WikiCommons
The Portuguese Synagogue was built in the late 17th century by Amsterdam’s Sephardic Jewish population. During this period, many Jewish people fled from the Iberian peninsula to escape persecution and settled in the Dutch Republic, partly due to the country’s liberal religious laws. The Portuguese Synagogue is still an important place of worship and contains one of the oldest Jewish libraries in the world, Ets Haim Library.

2. Jewish Historical Museum

Museum

Jewish Historical Museums main entrance
© S Sepp/WikiCommons
The Jewish Historical Museum conserves over 11,000 culturally important artefacts and regularly hosts temporary exhibitions covering specific aspects of Judaism. Its two permanent exhibitions trace the history of Judaism in the Netherlands and detail important Jewish ceremonies, traditions and customs. The museum is built upon four former synagogues that originally stood in Amsterdam’s historical Jewish quarter. A smaller museum for children is also located on its grounds.

3. The National Holocaust Memorial Hollandsche Schouwburg

Museum

The National Holocaust Memorial Hollandsche Schouwburg
© Henk Toorman/WikiCommons
During the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, the Hollandsche Schouwburg theater was converted into a deportation centre. Thousands of Jewish people were forcefully gathered in this building and then sent to transportation camps on the Dutch-German border. Most were eventually transported to extermination camps inside Germany or Poland and murdered. After the war, Amsterdam’s municipality converted the theater into a monument and erected a memorial obelisk in its courtyard.

4. National Holocaust Museum

Museum

National Holocaust Museum
© Persia Dutch Network/WikiCommons
The National Holocaust Museum looks directly onto the Hollandsche Schouwburg, and is built inside a former school that was used by Dutch resistance fighters to smuggle Jewish children out Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation. The museum documents the stories of people effected by the Holocaust and regularly hosts temporary exhibitions covering modern Jewish history.

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