Baltics and Norway Kosher Cruise
aboard the Holland America: ms Eurodam
One of the Most Elegant Ships at Sea!
July 31 - August 17, 2012 (17 Nights - Kosher Cruise)
SCHOLAR/CANTOR IN RESIDENCE:
Dr. Mendy Granchow and Yaakov Motzen
|Tues., Jul. 31||Stockholm, Sweden||Departs||5:00 pm|
|Wed., Aug. 1||Tallinn, Estonia||9:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Thurs., Aug. 2||St. Petersburg, Russia||7:00 am|
|Fri., Aug. 3||St. Petersburg, Russia||6:00 pm|
|Sat., Aug. 4||Helsinki, Finland||6:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Sun., Aug. 5||At Sea|
|Mon., Aug. 6||Warnemunde (Berlin), Germany||6:00 am||10:00 pm|
|Tues., Aug. 7||Kiel (Hamburg), Germany||8:00 am||6:00 pm|
|Wed., Aug. 8||Copenhagen, Denmark||8:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Thurs., Aug. 9||At Sea|
|Fri., Aug. 10||Amsterdam, The Netherlands||7:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Sat., Aug. 11||At Sea|
|Sun., Aug. 12||Alesund, Norway||10:00 am||11:59 pm|
|Mon., Aug. 13||Cruising Geirangerfjord/Geiranger||8:00 am||5:00pm|
|Tues., Aug. 14||Bergen, Norway||8:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Wed., Aug. 15||Cruising Hardangerfjord/Eidfjord||8:00 am||5:00 pm|
|Thurs., Aug. 16||At Sea|
|Fri., Aug. 17||Amsterdam, The Netherlands||7:00 am||Arrives|
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Copenhagen , DenmarkDenmark 's capital is sophisticated, saucy and friendly. We have a very strong Jewish tour that covers current and past Jewish life in Copenhagen. Explore rescue routes from the Holocaust, current synagogues and the Jewish districts. In addition, stroll the fairytale world of Tivoli Gardens to take in bright lights, castles that out-Disney Disney. See the city's 200- year-old Royal Palace, the lively Old Harbor—Hans Christian Andersen lived here(Little Mermaid).
Tallinn , EstoniaMedieval walls and towers still stand tall in Tallinn's Old Town. Stroll and shop along cobblestone streets, walk up to the Baroque palace in the Upper Town, look out over the red roofs to the Baltic below, drop in at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral to find inspiration in the gleaming mosaics and icons. If interested a small Jewish community is making a place for itself. We can arrange tours to visit it.
St. PetersburgVisit the Great synagogue, The diaspora museum, and hear first hand what is was and currently is like to be a Jew is Russia. Get to know Russia inside and out by visiting the Hermitage, Peterhoffs Palace, a canal tour, and all the amazing sites in Russia.
Helsinki, FinlandShaped by its bays and off-shore islands, Helsinki is one of Europe's most scenic capitals. Take an archipelago cruise, walk the esplanade shopping streets, hear a Sibelius concert. Kosherica also has a great Jewish interest tours that gives you a comprehensive look at Jewish life from the past and present.
Stockholm, SwedenThere's so much to see in charming Stockholm, sprawled on 18 islands, often called the " Venice of the North." Cruise the sparkling waterways and navigate narrow, medieval streets. Watch the snappy changing of the guard at the Baroque Royal Palace and sail into Viking history with a visit to the awesome Vasa Museum. In addition, explore the main synagogues and the Jewish district and understand the what its like to be a Jewish person living in Sweden.
Warnemunde/Berlin, GermanyThe main tour of this site is an intense full day exploration of Jewish currently living in Berlin and the atrocities of being a Jewish in Germany during the holocaust. We will not visit any sites except ones that are Jewish. This is a very important tour to NEVER forget our past.
Arhus, DenmarkStep back to the Middle Ages in Old Town Arhus with its cobblestone streets and faultless renditions of half-timbered houses. Shop for unique Danish handcrafts near the port, explore the ruggedly beautiful Jutland Peninsula and its heathery hills, or indulge your inner child with a trip to the original (and still the best) Legoland.
Arhus, DenmarkStep back to the Middle Ages in Old Town Arhus with its cobblestone streets and faultless renditions of half-timbered houses. Shop for unique Danish handcrafts near the port, explore the ruggedly beautiful Jutland Peninsula and its heathery hills, or indulge your inner child with a trip to the original (and still the best) Legoland.
Oslo, NorwayAt the head of Oslofjord, Norway's handsome capital is the logical first stop in Scandinavia. Thor Heyerdahl's raft, Kon Tiki, recalls a voyage between Easter Island and Tahiti to prove a theory about the earliest colonization of Oceania. Watch the changing of the palace guard; ferry to the open-air Folke Museum.
Launching her maiden voyage in July of 2008, the ms Eurodam marks Holland America Line's new Signature-class ships. The ms Eurodam furthers the evolution of our sophisticated mid-sized ships with 11 passenger decks, a new topside Pan-Asian restaurant and lounge surrounded by panoramic views, an Explorer's Lounge bar, a new Italian restaurant adjacent to the Lido, elegant luxury jewelry boutique, new atrium bar area, an enhanced and reconfigured show lounge and a new photographic and imaging center. On the technical side, the ms Eurodam features the latest state-of-the-art navigation and safety systems. The ship is powered by six diesel generators and propelled by the latest Azipod® propulsion technology.
Guests on the ms Eurodam will be able to "show and tell" their vacation memories through the Digital Workshop powered by Windows®. Free workshops led by Microsoft-trained "techsperts" will show even the most novice camera or computer user how to take better vacation photos, make movies, edit pictures and create scrapbooks using a variety of Microsoft Windows and Windows Live services. Guests will learn how to share all their digital memories through email, blogging and social networking - so friends and family can see where they've been cruising even before they return home.
Following in the Holland America Line tradition, the ms Eurodam features an exquisite art collection based on the theme, "The Dutch Golden Age - An Inexhaustible Tradition". Highlighting works by Dutch masters and contemporary artists, some of the pieces featured will include 17th-century watercolor maps by famed cartographer Johannes Vingboons, photo-realistic oil paintings by artist Jan van 't Hoff and The Nightwatch, Two Minutes Later, a contemporary reinterpretation of Rembrandt's famous painting.
- Cabanas: Introducing our new private cabanas are available to reserve by the day or by the cruise. Available on two decks, they are tastefully decorated, filled with amenities and provide an exquisite poolside retreat.
- The Retreat: Your own private oasis located high above the rest...our exclusive Retreat cabanas are the ultimate place to relax surrounded by healthy refreshments and luxurious amenities.
- Spa Suites and Staterooms: Relaxation...privacy...serenity. These are the hallmarks of the ms Eurodam'sspacious new Spa Suites and Staterooms, located on the Panorama and Observation decks include special spa amenities.
- Greenhouse Spa & Salon: features heavenly beauty and wellness rituals. Enjoy a facial, hot stone massage, steam in a thermal suite and have your hair and nails done for a special evening.
- Explorations Café, powered by The New York Times: a comfortable, coffee house environment where you can browse through an extensive library, surf the Internet and check email or simply read the morning paper. The Mainstage Show Lounge: features talented vocalists, dancers, illusionists, comedians and variety acts.
- Crow's Nest: offers sweeping 270° views during the day, and a hip, fashionable nightclub each evening.
- Club HAL®: our dedicated youth facilities and activities for kids ages 3 to 12; activities are supervised and age appropriate.
- The Loft: designed exclusively for teens to have fun, socialize and hang out with people their own age, includes our new video editing facility for teens.
Mendy Ganchrow, M.D.
Mendy Ganchrow, M.D. Mendy Ganchrow, M.D. is a retired colo-rectal surgeon, served as president of the Orthodox Union from 1994 through 2000. He served as chairman of the board until 2002. The Orthodox Union is the world's largest Orthodox Synagogue group and consists of over 1000 synagogues.
In 1968, while serving as an army combat surgeon in Vietnam, he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and promoted to major. Upon the death of a Jewish chaplain, in light of his education at Yeshiva University and Orthodox upbringing, he was pleased to volunteer to serve as acting Jewish chaplain.
Civilian life lead him to a surgical practice in Rockland County, NY. As his practice grew, he simultaneously became deeply involved in the community. He served as president of his synagogue and local day school among his many different communal responsibilities.
In 1962, he organized the Hudson Valley Political Action Committee, which for a time was the largest local pro-Israel PAC in the US. He served as its president for 21 years.
During this time, he was extremely active in AIPAC on behalf of a strong US-Israel relationship.
He is former Chief of Surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern NY. He was a clinical associate professor of surgery and wrote 19 surgical papers. He has served on many boards and commissions.
In addition to his 3 books, he has written numerous Op-Eds on political, religious and general themes. His Op-Eds have been published in many newspapers. A few samples are reprinted at the conclusion of his latest book, "Journey through the Minefields." His newest book COMING OF AGE-VESHINANTEM LEVANECHA-VEDIBARTA BAM an anthology of Torah thoughts for Bar-Bas Mitzvah will be published March 2012.
Mendy is a well known public speaker and scholar-in-residence at synagogues throughout the US, Canada and other countries.
Major Cruise Questions
What is included in the price of my cruise?Virtually everything, with the exception of certain items of a personal nature, for which there is a fair and reasonable charge. Your cruise fare includes shipboard accommodations, ocean transportation, standard meals, services and onboard entertainment.
What's not includedItems that are of a personal nature, for which there is a fair and reasonable charge. Not included in the cruise fare are items that are of a personal nature including gratuities, shore excursions, airfare, telephone calls, faxes, spa treatments, salon services, photographs, laundry and valet service as well as wine, liquor and other beverages.
Will I need a passport or visa?You are responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents and for complying with Customs and Immigration requirements. Guests with out proper travel documents will not be allowed to board the vessel. If for some reason you must leave the ship mid-cruise, you will be denied re-entry into the U.S. unless you possess a valid U.S. passport and no refund of cruise fare will be given to any guest failing to bring such documentation. Costa Cruise Lines encourages all guests to obtain passports as soon as possible to avoid backlogs. For more information, please visit the U.S State department website at www.travel.state.gov.
Air TravelPassports will be required for any air travel from the Caribbean as of January 23, 2007. ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport.
Cruise TravelAs early as January 1st, 2008, subject to U.S. Government amendment, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda may be required to present a valid passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.
Mediterranean and North Europe Cruises:United States and Canadian citizens must have valid passports and necessary Visas. The expiration date of your passport must not occur within 6 months of the scheduled return date of travel. Naturalized U.S. citizens are advised to carry their naturalization papers. Aliens who are residents of the U.S. must carry their Alien Registration Card and passport. All others must have valid passports and necessary visas.
Please check current visa requirements with the appropriate embassies or consulates.
What clothing should I pack?Most of the time, you'll feel comfortable in casual resort wear including light cotton clothing. Sweaters, lightweight jackets, raincoats and hats are also appropriate for Northern Europe. Tennis shoes or low-heeled walking shoes are recommended for exploring the ports of call. While most shore excursions do not have dress codes, some tours specifically prohibit shorts and sleeveless shirts, and require ladies to wear knee-length skirts or slacks.
There is usually two formal galas to which ladies will wish to wear long gowns or cocktail-length dresses; gentlemen may choose either tuxedos or dark suits. Number of formal nights may vary depending on cruise length and itinerary. On other evenings, resort attire is the norm.
What is the climate like?Temperatures in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean (April through October) average 14 - 31 degrees Celsius; 57 - 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, they may vary.
Temperatures in Caribbean: (November - April) average 72-85 degrees. Of course, they may vary.
Temperatures in South America: (December - March) average 71-84 degrees. Of course, they may vary.
Can I phone home?Ship-to-shore telephone service is available 24 hours a day while the ship is at sea or in port from your stateroom. You'll find a telephone and dialing instructions in your stateroom.
If you need to be reached by people at home, have them call or fax the ship directly; or they can contact you via email through your own Internet Service Provider which you can then access via the Internet Café.
Is internet service available?You can send and receive emails through your own service provider in the Internet Café for a nominal charge.
How do I plan my on-shore activities?Naturally, you are free to explore many of the ports of call on your own, however, Costa has arranged a variety of shore excursion for you convenience. Each excursion is carefully researched by our Shore Excursion Staff to ensure your experience ashore is as enriching and enjoyable as your stay aboard. You may pre-book your excursions online by visiting www.costacruises.com and selecting . Personalize Your Cruise. . You will need to enter your booking number and your name as it appears on your reservation. The excursion selected will be debited to you onboard account . Or, if you prefer, you may purchase the shore excursion onboard at the Shore Excursion Desk. Shore Excursions are subject to availability and not available on all ships and sail dates.
What about laundry and dry cleaning services?Complete valet services including laundry, pressing and dry cleaning, can be arranged through your stateroom steward/stewardess and billed to your shipboard account.
You are responsible for obtaining all travel documents as well as compliance with Customs and Immigration requirements. You will be required to comply with all government imposed security measures, which may change without notice.
All passengers are responsible for obtaining all necessary travel documents and for complying with Customs and Immigration requirements.
Please check current VISA requirements with the appropriate embassies or consulates prior to departing on your cruise vacation. Kosherica is providing this application for your convenience.
Kosherica is not responsible for the accuracy of information provided herein. Please contact www.visahq.com with any questions.
Guests without proper travel documents will not be allowed to board the vessel. If for some reason you must leave the ship mid-cruise, you will be denied re-entry into the U.S. unless you possess a valid U.S. passport and no refund of cruise fare will be given to any guest failing to bring such documentation. Kosherica encourages all guests to obtain passports as soon as possible to avoid backlogs. For more information, please visit the U.S State department website at www.travel.state.gov.
As far back as in the year 1000, the Norwegian king, Olav den Hellige, forbade everyone who was not Christian to live in Norway but only in the time of king Christian IV (late 16th century) do we find specific references to the Jews. The Jews in question were mainly those who in 1492 and 1498 were driven out of Spain and Portugal. These Sephardi Jews first settled in the Netherlands and in Hamburg. In Norway, these were called "Portuguese-Jews." Some of them were given special permission to enter Norway when no other Jews could. Those who were still in Norway at the beginning of the 19th century in most cases let themselves be baptized. The king, Christian IV, thought that the Jews could be helpful to his country but because of opposition from the clergy, he had to be satisfied with letting the Jews settle in duchies of Slesvig-Holstein. Jews had been permitted to live there from 1620. They were now granted freedom of religion and in 1630 the king gave them permission to travel freely in Denmark and Norway and also do trade there. The Jews living in this area were not, as in many other countries, forced to live in ghettos or in special Jewish streets or wear clothes which would distinguish them as being Jewish. In 1641, the king extended his "protection" to include "Aschkenazi-Jews," from Eastern-, Central- and part of Western Europe.
King Christian IV's successor, King Fredrik III, was not as liberal as his predecessor and during his time the Jews in the area once again lived under strict conditions. They were not allowed to be in the Danish-Norwegian kingdom without a form of visa . In 1687, when Norway was united with Denmark under King Christian V's law, the prohibition of Jews entering the country was reinserted. There was a fine for anyone who broke this law and a reward for the person who informed against a Jew. About 150 years later, in 1830, the attitude towards Jews was somewhat more lenient and by 1844 the Justice Department decided that "Portuguese-Jews" would be permitted to enter freely. In 1814, Norway acquired its first constitution. This document was relatively liberal, but it stated that the official state religion was Lutheran Protestantism and that Jews and Jesuits were forbidden from entering the kingdom. The lobbying to change this paragraph was led by the national poet, Henrik Wergeland. In 1851 the ban was indeed reversed, six years after the Wergeland's death.
Following this, Jews in small numbers started arriving to Norway, mainly from Poland and Lithuania. These were often people who did not have money to go to America. In June 1892, the first Jewish community was established in Christiania (now Oslo). The community was first given the name Det Jødiske Samfund i Christiania (The Jewish Community in Christiania) but only one year later it was changed to Det Mosaiske Trossamfund (The Mosaic Community). At this stage there were 214 Jews in Norway, 136 of them living in Christiania. When the community was established, it had about 100 members. They decided to keep to the Orthodox tradition, though most of the members were not very observant with regard to the Halachic laws. The develoPMent of the community continued through the following years. In 1892, an immigrant from Lithuania was employed as teacher for the children, cantor, shochet and mohel. The same year, fixed times for prayers were set and a place was rented to be used as a synagogue. In 1893 the community employed a rabbi, Dr. Meyer Ashkanaze, and as the number of members increased, the synagogue was moved from place to place. During the next 30 years, the number of Jews in Norway increased from 642 persons (343 in Christiania) to 1457 (852 in Christiania) .
The immigrants came from Eastern Europe and the reasons for this great immigration was The First World War, persecution of Jews and general suffering in Europe. Between 1900 and 1910 there were four small Jewish communities in Christiania at the same time. One of them, Israels Menighet i Christiania, Adath Yeshurun (Israel's Congregation in Christiania, Adath Yeshurun), was led by the same rabbi Dr. Aschkenaze, who had been the rabbi of Det Mosaiske Trossamfund (The Mosaic Community) only a few years earlier. These communities had very small differences concerning ideology and by 1910 they had merged into one, namely Det Mosaiske Trossamfund. In 1917, yet another congregation was established as a result of dissatisfaction with the way the bigger congregation was run but by 1939 there was again only one congregation, Det Mosaiske Trossamfund. This has remained the situation until today. About 3/4 of the approximately 2000 Norwegian Jews, were affiliated to this community in Oslo, or the smaller community, which had been established in Trondheim. The Jewish population, in Norway, has never exceeded this number. Between 1915 and 1940, Jewish cultural life in Oslo blossomed. Several competing theatrical groups, performing in Yiddish, choirs, cultural organisations (also in Yiddish) as well as academic organisations were established. In 1910 the Jewish Youth Association was established, becoming the most active and important organisation within the Jewish community. During the years 1935-1940, a number of study-circles were held, led by the community's rabbi, Isak Julius Samuel. In 1942, the rabbi was deported and killed by the Nazis.
In 1940, the Germans occupied Norway. Norwegian newspapers and media were full of anti-Semitic propaganda and the Norwegian government was taken over by Nazis (Quisling). Two years later, in 1942, 750 Jews were deported to Auschwitz. Of these, only 25 survived. The remainder of the Norwegian Jewry managed to escape to Sweden, where they lived as refugees until the end of the war. Over 100 Jews served in the Free Norwegian Forces, mostly stationed in Britain. After the end of the war, in 1945, when some of the refugees returned, the Jewish community in Oslo was re-established. They found the synagogue in Oslo unharmed, miraculously. It had been used as a storage place for Nazi-literature and confiscated Jewish belongings during the war. Even the Torah Scrolls were still there, unharmed. The synagogue could, therefore, be used again as soon as it was cleaned up. The new rabbi of the community was Rabbi Zalman Aronzon. However, the level of activity, at the time, was much lower than before the war and there were long periods without a rabbi, limited teaching capability and little spiritual leadership. In 1947 the Norwegian government permitted the immigration of several hundred Jewish refugees, mostly from Hungary. In 1960, a community centre was built next to the synagogue.
In the late 1970's a serious revival of the community began, with the appointment of a new, young rabbi, Michael Melchior and a new leadership. The rabbi made many changes in the education system. Besides from intensifying the intellectual challenge of the studying, he also tried to build on the principle that "Jewish culture should not merely be learnt but also lived." The "classroom-education" was extended to include obligatory weekend-seminars and camps, which would let the children actually experience what they were learning. Since then, many institutions have been established: kindergarten, well-attended synagogue services, Cheider (afternoon classes) for all school children, aged-home, a supply of kosher food imported from Israel and America, study-circles as well as other cultural and religious events. During the last 25-30 years organisations such as WIZO, B'nei Akiva (being the only active youth organisation, in Norway, today), Maccabi Sports Club, B'nai Brith and Keren Kayemet L'Israel have become popular among the Norwegian Jews.
Due to the small number of Jews in Norway, the leadership saw that it was essential to maintain unity and that there should therefore only be one congregation in Oslo (about 950 members) and a smaller community in Trondheim (about 100 members). The policy of the community is to follow Orthodox laws, teachings and traditions. This form is used in the synagogue, classes etc. and for all events within the community. In order for this to work in practice, there is no coercion of members as to regard their own degree of observance, as long as regulations are followed within the confines and institutions of the community. Part of the revival of the Jewish community, during the last 20 years, has been the introduction of "cantors" from Israel, whose duties include leading synagogue services and teaching. These people come for a couple of years, with their families, and then return to Israel. This arrangement insures an infusion of latest ideas from the Jewish world, especially Israel. During the last decade this has been achieved through successful association with WUJS' (World Union of Jewish Students) project Arevim. Most of the members Jewish Community in Oslo have very strong ties with the State of Israel and the Community encourages a Zionistic ideology.
The Virtual Jewish History Tour Netherlands
By David Shyovitz
The great Jewish presence in the Netherlands began and ended in tragedy: The first Jews came after being expelled from Spain, and the huge community was decimated 350 years later by the Holocaust. In between, the Dutch Jews contributed to, and then watched the decline of, one of the most prosperous and enlightened eras in the history of the Netherlands. The history of Jews in the Netherlands was different than their experience in any other country, and, while today's Jewish community is only a fraction of what it once was, it is rapidly becoming more in touch with the eras that preceded it.
Interestingly, while the Jews were numerically inconsequential in the region during medieval times, their place in the Low Countries' culture was much more prominent. A significant portion of the surviving literature and poetry from that era is rife with anti-Semitic references, and the contemporary Christian legends emphasize the perfidy of the Jews, and their role in the death of Jesus.
Beginning in the sixteenth century, the Netherlands became home to numerous Portugese merchants, as the region, and particularly the city of Amsterdam, became a center of world trade and shipping. Among these merchants were many Marranos, who had been forced out of Spain by the Inquisition in 1492. They kept their Jewish identities a secret, but, by the end of the century, had formed a community in Amsterdam, a city that did not recognize religions other than Protestantism. The community was discovered, and its leaders arrested, in 1603. As a result, some of the newly-acknowledged Jews moved to the towns of Alkmaar, Rotterdam, and Haarlem, which extended them protective charters. The majority, however, remained in Amsterdam, and even founded a second community there in 1608.
The Protestant Church, the official religion of the state, was furious that the Jews were not being repressed, but secular authorities were not eager to punish the Jews, who had become important traders and merchants. To clear up the religious controversy, new statutes regarding religious tolerance were issued in 1619. These new laws left the decisions regarding Jews completely in the hands of individual city rulers. Amsterdam itself declared that Jews were welcome, but not as citizens; they could practice freely, but were somewhat limited in their commercial and political rights. Most cities followed Amsterdam's example, though some cities granted Jews complete rights, and others prohibited Jewish settlement altogether. Thus, the overall status of Jews in the Netherlands remained inconsistent, but was generally in the Jews' favor.
In 1620, the first Ashkenazi Jews arrived in Amsterdam, and they formed a community by 1635. The Ashkenazim, who first came from Germany, and later from eastern Europe as well, also settled elsewhere in the Netherlands, particularly Rotterdam and the Hague. The Ashkenazim in the Netherlands soon became superior to the Sephardim in numbers, but, with the exception of a few wealthy Ashkenazi families, they remained inferior socially and economically.
Politically, the Jews were for the most part left to their own devices. Their internal affairs were managed by the kehilla, the Jews' semi-autonomous governing body. The Jews judged themselves in bet dins (religious courts), organized their own educational system, and appointed leaders from within their own ranks. This political isolation from the rest of society on the part of the Jews was typical in Europe in this period.
Because of their economic integration, Jews in the Netherlands eventually united with the greater society to a much larger extent than any other Jewish community in this period. While they continued to be governed by the kehilla, they lived not in a ghetto, but in a Jewish quarter, which the Jews were free to leave and which was frequented by non-Jews – the artist Rembrandt, for example, lived and worked in the Jewish quarter. The anti-Semitic violence that was still prevalent in Germany and eastern Europe was non-existent in the Netherlands. Christian conversions to Judaism, while not common, were not unheard of, and secular scholars were remarkably knowledgeable about Judaism – at a time when most of Europe believed in the blood libel that the Talmud required the blood of a Christian child to be baked into matzah, scholars in Amsterdam were studying the Mishna and the Talmud, and even composing poetry in Hebrew. Reciprocally, some Jewish artists and authors made significant contributions to the flourishing culture of the Dutch Golden Age.
This account of the Jews' welfare and integration, however, is subject to a caveat: It was only the Sephardic Jews who were succeeding so well in the Netherlands. The more numerous Ashkenazim were closer to a proletariat than a merchant class. They continued to speak primarily Yiddish, made no lasting contributions to Dutch culture, and, more surprisingly, made few contributions to their own. While many important rabbinical works were published in the Netherlands because of the excellent printing industry, few, if any, were composed there. The Ashkenazi community never produced its own rabbis, and was forced to import them from abroad. Nonetheless, Ashkenazim in the Netherlands did face less persecution than their brethren in the rest of Europe, and were definitely better off in that regard.
Finally, religious controversy engulfed Amsterdam communities when an increasing number of apostates appeared on the scene. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who made important contributions to the Netherlands' culture and scholarship, was excommunicated by all of the leaders of the Amsterdam communities. Uriel da Costa, another famous heretic of the era, was banned as well. On a smaller scale, in 1618, the Sephardi community split over how liberal their community should be, and a group of strictly Orthodox Jews left the kehilla to begin their own. By 1639, however, that rift had been mended.
Dissatisfied with their economic situation, and influenced by the nearby French revolution, Jews began to lobby for emancipation, and the abolition of the autonomous kehilla. The Batavian Republic, France's puppet government in the Netherlands, officially instituted emancipation on September 2, 1796, but the rights granted to the Jews were rebuffed by a large percentage of the community, who wanted to retain their political separateness. The kehilla split into two factions: One wanted to be emancipated, the other refused. The government sided with the pro-emancipation camp, and so did Napoleon Bonaparte, after he annexed the Netherlands and turned it into the Kingdom of Holland.
Despite the technical emancipation, there was no actual change in the situation of the Jews for some time due to the turmoil that was affecting the region as a whole. Napoleon's wars and his eventual defeat made the Netherlands' bad economic situation worse. When, in 1814, a coup again changed the political landscape of the country, the ruler of the new Kingdom of the Netherlands inherited a Jewish population composed of nearly 60% paupers. For the first time, the Sephardim were even worse-off than the Ashkenazim. But improvements were not long in coming now that the Netherlands was once again an independent country. An economic boom benefitted the Jews, who became active in the cotton industry, and returned to the diamond industry. As their prosperity grew, so too did their rights. King William I began to regulate the Jewish community's internal affairs, effectively disbanding the Netherlands kehilla; he instituted compulsory secular education for Jewish children; and he waged a determined battle against Yiddish, which resulted in the Jews' widespread adoption of Dutch. The efforts of the government were aided by those of the Dutch maskilim, who were of course in favor of integration. Soon, Jews infiltrated the professional classes, and many became doctors and lawyers.
The new opportunities for Jews were most available in the cities, resulting in the consolidation of nearly all of the Netherlands' Jews in urban locations by the end of the nineteenth century. Not surprisingly, the integration into secular society impacted the religiosity of Dutch Jewry. Orthodoxy lost its influence to Liberalism, and the Jewish population gradually declined, due to conversions, intermarriage, and a low birthrate. As a result, the Jewish nationalist movement never got a foothold in the region, and Zionism never achieved the popularity that it did elsewhere in Europe.
Toward the Holocaust From 1939-1940, 34,000 refugees entered the Netherlands as Jews fled Nazi Germany. The Netherlands maintained an open-poor policy for immigration. In 1940, at the time of its occupation by the German, 140,000 Jews lived in Holland. Jews represented 1.6 percent of the total population. This figure includes refugees from Germany, Austria, and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
These refugees would be no better off in the Netherlands. Soon after the Nazi occupation, the first anti-Jewish laws removed Jews from their professions, their schools, and their homes. In late 1941, a deportation plan was intacted providing for the removal of the Jews from all the provinces and their concentration in Amsterdam. This phase was launched on January 14, 1942, beginning with the town of Zaandam. The Dutch nationals among the Jews were ordered to move to Amsterdam, while those who were stateless were sent to the Westerbork camp.
The attempt to make Holland Judenrein (clean of Jews) was completed when the Nazis began to deport Jews countrywide on October 2, 1942. 12,296 were deported. In May 1943, the rate of deportations was accelerated. Most were sent to Auschwitz and Sobibor. Interestingly, a relatively large percentage of the Holocaust survivors in Amsterdam did so by either hiding with non-Jews, or forging documents with the help of non-Jews. The most famous example of this phenomenon was the Frank family, who survived for several years hidden in an Amsterdam building. The diary kept by Anne Frank has become the most widely-read account of life during the Holocaust.
In April 2005, Holland's prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, apologized for his country's collaboration with the Nazis. The Dutch wartime government "worked on the horrible process whereby Jews were stripped of their rights," Balkenende said before he helped mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Westerbork transit camp.
To the present day, the number of Jews in Amsterdam has held steady at between 25,000 and 30,000. While the total numbers have remained constant, however, levels of observance have increased. Primarily due to the presence of Chabad, there are currently three Jewish schools in Amsterdam, and the number of Jews affiliated with communities has grown over the years. Kosher food is available in Amsterdam, the Hague, and several other cities with Jewish populations. Nonetheless, the majority of Jews are still unaffiliated.
The relationship between the Netherlands and Israel has been a mostly friendly one. The Netherlands voted in favor of partition in the U.N., and has frequently defended Israel both in the U.N. and in the European Union. They have provided sporadic military aid to Israel as well. However, the Netherlands has at times refused to support Israel, and there is great deal of sympathy for the Palestinian cause in the Dutch media. Nonetheless, the PLO, and subsequently, the Palestinian Authority, have been granted only limited recognition in the Hague, the Netherlands' political capitol.
Today, the Jewish quarter, which was destroyed during the Nazi occupation, has been largely abandoned; only the "Snoga," the Sephardi synagogue remains in use there. Nonetheless, the quarter is still full of monuments and historical sights. The Rembrandthuis (Rembrandt House) is located on Jodenbreestraat, and contains a collection of his works. Among the pieces displayed there are numerous biblical scenes, and several portraits of prominent seventeenth century Jews.
Not far from the Rembrandthuis are several restored synagogues. A large complex houses the Great Shul (built in 1670), the Obbene Shul (1672), the Dritt Shul (1700) and the Neie Shul (1730); all four were badly damaged during WWII and its aftermath, and have recently been renovated. The shuls reflect the rapid growth of Dutch Ashkenazi Jewry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – each synagogue was constructed when the previous one proved too small for the expanding community. The complex also contains a mikva and houses the Jewish Historical Museum, which has a large collection of memorabilia and ritual objects.
Around the corner, on Plantage Middenlaan, is the Hollandsche Schouwberg. The spot was once the site of Jewish dramatic performances; later, it was the gathering spot for Jews who were rounded up and deported by the Nazis. A Holocaust memorial stands there today. The "Snoga," the Sephardi synagogue that has been in almost continual use since 1672, stands nearby. It is famous for its magnificent interior, its sand covered floors, and its library, which contains priceless copies of some of the scholarly works that made Amsterdam famous during the Golden Age. Down the road, on Waterlooplein, is the site where the previous Sephardi shul stood, in which Baruch Spinoza was excommunicated. The house he grew up in is nearby as well, and today houses a church.
The Anne Frank House, at Prinsengracht 263, is one of the most visited sites in all of the Netherlands. The small house in which the Frank and Van Damm families hid for two years today houses a museum. Much of the house, however, has not been changed from its original state: posters of movie stars still hang on the wall of what was Anne's bedroom, and the kitchen walls are marked with pencil lines where the family marked their children's growth spurts.
The seat of the Dutch government is less cosmopolitan than Amsterdam, but it too contains important history. Many Jews lived, and still live, in this city, most notably Baruch Spinoza during the last years of his life. There are several museums located in the houses he occupied, which are run by the Spinoza Society. Additionally, his grave is located in the Churchyard of the Nieuwe Kirk (New Church). While his excommunication prevented him from being buried in a Jewish cemetery, a memorial adorned with the Hebrew word "amcha" ("your people") was placed on the site in 1956 by the Israel Spinoza Society, on the 300th anniversary of his excommunication.
Also in the Hague is a Jewish Community center, and several synagogues. The most popular attraction in the city is the Madurodam, a miniature city on a 1:25 scale in which cars and busses move, windmills turn, and music and lights go on and off. The model was built by the Maduro family in memory of George Maduro, a Jewish military hero who died in Dachau.
Middelburg was one of the first cities in the Netherlands where Jews could express their religion freely. The synagogue in Middelburg was founded in 1705 and was the first synagogue to be built outside of Amsterdam. During the Holocaust, Middelburg's small Jewish community of 200 was first transported to Amsterdam in 1942 and from there was sent to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. The Germans used the synagogue as a storehouse during the war and the building was later severely damaged during the liberation of 1944.
Only six of Middelburg's Jews returned to the city after the war. Without a Jewish community, Middelburg's synagogue fell into decay and by 1980, only a few walls remained intact. In 1987, the Stichting Synagoge Middelburg, the Middelburg Synagogue Foundation, was formed to undertake the resoration of the synagogue. The restoration was completed in 1994 and it is now possible to go visit one of the oldest surviving synagogues in the Netherlands between March and November, every Thursday from 10:00 untill 4:00.
Middleburg is also home to two Jewish cemeteries, one Ashkenazi and the other Sephardic. The Ashkenazi cemetery dates back to 1705 and is still in use today. The Sephardic cemetery was in use between 1655 and 1721 and was recently restored. Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel's son Samuel is buried at this cemetery. Ben Israel petitioned Oliver Cromwell in 1655 to allow the re-entrance of Jews to England and is believed to be partially responsible for Cromwell's decision in favor of their re-admittance. Both of Middelburg's Jewish cemeteries have been recognized as national monuments.
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, "The Netherlands."
Encyclopedia Judaica, "The Netherlands."
Tigay, Alan. The Jewish Traveler. Jason Aronson, Inc. Northvale, NJ, 1994.
Wigoder, Geoffery. Jewish Art and Civilization. Walker and Co. New York, 1972.
Stichting Synagoge Middelburg (Middelburg Synagogue Foundation)
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