Portuguese Synagogue Amsterdam

Inneres der Portugiesischen Synagoge in Amsterdam ± 1680, by Emanuel de Witte (1617–1692) Rijksmuseum (from Wikipedia) . 

The Portuguese Synagogue is an awe-inspiring testimony of the vibrant and rich Jewish culture in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. The beautiful building, modelled after the Temple of Solomon, was the biggest synagogue of its time. It is still a functioning synagogue, but it is also open to visitors. For additional information click HERE.

Portuguese Synagogue official website

Sure I have some ‘conversos‘ among my ancestors, perhaps that’s why I’ve been always fascinated by their history and by the fact that Sephardi Jews still keep their language (ladino), derived mainly from the Castilian language that was spoken in the XV century. 

5 thoughts on “Portuguese Synagogue Amsterdam”

  1. Jose Ignacio, this is a fascinating subject that has got me thinking.
    The Coffee Trader [David Liss], Amsterdam, The Dutch Republic, The Black Tulip [Alexandre Dumas], I Will Maintain [Marjorie Bowen] The De Witt Brothers… Anne Frank House.

    When we visited Arizona and New Mexico in 2000 we read about conversos who had gone to the then furthest extremities of the Spanish Empire presumably to avoid the Inquisition. Some researchers wondered why their Catholic grandparents would never eat pork, and used expressions from ladino and afterwards traced their ancestry back to the conversos in Spain and Portugal.
    Although my own direct ancestors are Ashkenazi from Eastern Europe* I have Sephardi cousins with Spanish names [Garcia] and Dutch surnames, stepdaughters with Dutch surnames, and a best man whose family kept the middle name of Leon to remind themselves of their ancestry in Spain.
    * My Welsh sounding family name dates back a long time and was not changed when my grandfather came to the UK over a hundred years ago.Tragically there are thirteen names with that exact spelling on the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust victims names. Probably my ancestors were traders and met up with Welsh merchants in the early 19th century or earlier, and then altered the spelling.

    1. Thank you Norman. It’s fascinating indeed. Escribano is a pretty much common surname in Spain and its origin is difficult to trace. But there are some details like its Toledo’s roots, the reference to a profession, escribano means notary (public) or scribe, and the fact that my grandpa name was Elias and one of his sisters Joaquina, may mean something. Particularly at times (places) when (where) jews were ill-considered.

  2. José Ignacio – Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I actually had the privilege to visit that synagogue while I was attending a conference in Amsterdam several years ago. It’s a wonderful experience and I recommend it highly. Actually, Amsterdam’s entire Jewish Quarter is a great experience. I also recommend the Sinigoga Major in Barcelona in that city’s Jewish Quarter. Again I was at a conference in Barcelona and discovered it – a really unique and wonderful place.

    1. Margot – Thanks for comment. I’ve visited only the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam from the outside, maybe it was closed at the time of my visit. Have to admit that I was not aware of the Sinagoga Mayor in Barcelona, but have visited most in Spain (Girona/Gerona, Toledo and Cordoba). Has made a note for my next visit to Barcelona though.

  3. Jose Ignacio: I visited lots of churches in Europe but no synagogues.

    I live in an area of Saskatchewan focused on farming and settled just over 100 years ago. There was a Jewish settlement called Edenbridge about 40 km from Melfort. The settlers were Lithuanian Jews who went to South Africa and then came to Western Canada. Virtually all the Jewish famililes have left the area. The small wooden synagogue and cemetery remain.

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