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  • The Jewish community of Haarlem

    Internet and "Jewish Haarlem" by Wim de Wagt.(*)

    (*) Joods Haarlem, Een topografie van hoop en herinnering,
    Stichting Uitgeverij Noord-Holland, Wormer, 2005, 144 pag
    ISBN 9071123898

    The Nederlands Israelitische Gemeente of Haarlem (the Jewish community of Haarlem) was one of the most important communities of the Netherlands. During the middle ages a small number of Jews settled in Haarlem, but as yet this was not a permanent settlement. In 1605 several Jews from Portugal were allowed to settle there. They also received the right of religious freedom. At the start of the 18th century the first Ashkenazi Jews settled in Haarlem. One of them received citizenship in 1703.
    Jews were not admitted to the existing guilds and life was not easy. In 1742 a Jewish school was opened in Haarlem and in 1770 the community inaugurated a cemetery at the Bolwerk.

    The first years of the community were hard. There were riots and in 1794 the authorities even found it necessary to interfere. At the end of the18th century a Portuguese Jewish kehilla was founded, which was dissolved after a short period.

    During most of the 19th century the economic situation of the Jews of Haarlem was difficult, despite the civil rights which were granted to them in 1796. The founding of the school for the poor in 1819, and the building of the new synagogue in the Lange Begijnstraat in 1841, could not have been executed without municipal assistance.

    As a result of the rising industrialization towards the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population of Haarlem increased. At the start of the 20th century several Jewish societies with religious, cultural and Zionistic aims, were established. In 1930 a Jewish hospital was added to the Sint Elizabeth Gasthuis and in 1936 Haarlem became the residence of the provincial rabbinate. A Jewish kindergarten, an elementary school and a Lyceum high school were established.

    After the arrival of refugees from Nazi Germany during the thirties, the Jewish population of Haarlem increased again, but during the war the Germans did not allow them to live in the coastal region and ordered the new arrivals to leave town.
    An estimated one thousand Jews were deported from Haarlem during the war. The synagogue was plundered and burned down. The Torah scrolls were saved. The Jewish cemetery at the Amsterdamse Vaart was also damaged.
    The damage to the Jewish cemetery was repaired by the Boete en Verzoening foundation. Jewish cemeteries were also situated in Overveen, Hoofddorp and Santpoort-Zuid.
    The plans for a memorial in the Kenaupark in honor of the Jewish community of Haarlem were not executed, due to a serious conflict between the municipality and the planners.
    In 2002 the archives of the Jewish community of Haarlem were organized and are now open to the public at the Archiefdienst van Kennemerland.

    The Jews in Haarlem
    Jewish population
    1798 198
    1809 166
    1840 418
    1869 571
    1899 819
    1930 1130
    1951 260
    1971 184
    1998 71

    Shortly after the middle of the 18th century the Jewish population was allowed to hold services at a so called "home synagogue" in the Zoetestraat. Later on, in 1765, they were allowed to establish a synagogue on the first floor of a house at the Begijnhof, today's Goudsmitspleintje, which gave the Jews a footing in town. The synagogue was on the first floor, and downstairs was the mikwe, the ritual bath. The expansion on the left side of the first floor was probably intended for the Holy Ark. The small community now possessed its first real synagogue and one year later the Haarlem municipality officially recognized the Jewish community.
    In 1809 the synagogue was enlarged. There was now place for sixty men and twenty women. But the situation remained difficult. The synagogue was still too small and the building itself was not in a good condition. The kehilla had grown, but the synagogue could not be enlarged, because the existing plot was too small.

    Because the place was "very unhealthy and not fitting at all" the community appealed to the King and to the municipality requesting financial assistance, which would enable them to build a new synagogue. The kehilla succeeded in obtaining part of the necessary funds, by means of a collection in town, which was very successful. The project could finally be realized because the municipality and the province of Noord-Holland decided to contribute to the new building. The government also participated and a plot at the Lange Begijnestraat was bought. In June 1840 the new synagogue was inaugurated. The Torah rolls were ceremoniously brought from the old synagogue "under a canopy, with great care and along a calm road" as reported in the protocol of the synagogue council.

    The house at the Goudsmitpleintje was still used for meetings and the mikwe remained there. Jewish religion classes were also held in the same building. In 1888 the community moved to a new building situated at the Lange Wijngaardstraat, and the old building was sold.
    The new synagogue was not very large, but it breathed a special atmosphere. The Holy Ark with the Torah rolls was, as required, placed in the East towards Jerusalem. The new synagogue had seats for one hundred and ninety members. The seats were arranged in five rows. Those who wanted to follow the service from the first row had to pay thirteen cents a week. The payment for the last row was four and a half cents. The seats of the women rows were even cheaper.
    The synagogue in the Lange Wijngaardstraat was built in a neo-gothic style. The windows had pointed arches. Around the building was an iron fence. The Holy Ark, the Aron Hakodesh and the Bima, the central platform, were covered with wood. The walls of the synagogue were white. The Bima was placed in the middle of the synagogue, which is typical for Ashkenazi synagogues, as opposed to the Portuguese Jews, who place the Bima at the end of the synagogue. The building was probably designed by the town architect, De Geus.
    In 1896 the synagogue was enlarged and counted three hundred and forty seats. The two corner towers were added in the same year. The interior was beautified with elegant decorations, planned by the well-known architect W.F. Douglas. Later on stained glass windows were installed. As mentioned above,during the thirties of the 20th century Haarlem became the rabbinical seat of the province of Noord-Holland.

    In 1941 the synagogue existed one hundred years. The jubilee was celebrated with speeches, music and coupons for the poor members.
    From February 1941 the synagogue was guarded, in order to prevent destruction or arson. The Torah rolls and other valuables were hidden in the cellars of the Joles Hospital and afterwards they were moved to a cellar at the Bakenessergracht by Willem Peereboom, the architect of the Jewish community of Haarlem.

    Till February 1943 all Jews from Haarlem had been deported. After the war the community sold the synagogue building to the Grafische Inrichting Joh. Enschede en Zonen. This firm used the building for the storage of paper and cardboard.
    With the proceeds of the sale, a villa in the Kenaupark was acquired, which was converted into a shul, with a meeting room, a secretariat, a school for the teaching of Jewish religion and a mikwe. The Commission of War Damages paid part of the conversion and assisted with the interior arrangement.
    In 1953 the old shul burned down. It is not known how the fire started. A simple memorial stone in the wall of the Toneelschuur memorizes the old synagogue of Haarlem.

    Alongside the church council several societies - calledhevres - were active in social and religious areas. During the last decennia of the 19th century meetings were held where people socially could come together.
    The Gemilus Hasodim society - founded in 1796 - arranged the burials. In 1886 this society and the burial society Mahzikei Hesed - founded in 1835 - were merged, bearing the name Gemilus Hasodim. Its members could take out insurance to cover burial expenses. "The fulfillment of religious obligations, regarding dying members and burials" was their main purpose. One of their other aims was the placing of a tombstone. The board of the hevre was appointed by the community council. The meetings of the Gemilus Hasodim hevre were held in the community building in the Lange Wijngaardstraat.

    Till the end of the 18th century the Jews of Haarlem buried their deceased members in Amsterdam, since in their city there was no cemetery which met the halachic regulations. In view of the growth of the kehilla a Jewish cemetery became a necessity. In 1770 the municipality decided to grant the community's request and allotted a small plot on the bastion, the Prinsen Bolwerk, near the Kennemer-poort, also called the Nieuwpoort.

    The access to the Jewish cemetery was difficult, because of the existing town wall. In order to facilitate access, two doors were made in the town wall. Around the cemetery there was a low hedge. In 1785 the cemetery was enlarged, mainly because somebody had been buried by mistake outside the planned area. In 1794 the cemetery was enlarged again and a metaher house was added. It remained a small cemetery, but it could not be enlarged anymore. Moreover the cemetery had become a problem in view of planned changes in that part of town. Finally the cemetery was closed and the Jews were buried in the Jewish part of the general cemetery at the Kleverlaan. The Jewish cemetery at the Bolwerk was used from 1770 till 1833.

    In 1832 part of the general cemetery at the Kleverlaan was made available for Jewish burials. This part was used till 1915. Since 1887 another Jewish cemetery was situated at the Amsterdamse Straatweg, the present Amsterdamse Vaart, where burials are executed till today.

    In 1833 the existence of the old cemetery at the Bolwerk became a source of trouble for
    the Jewish community. They did not succeed in buying the place, but they were promised that their cemetery would always be honored. Finally the cemetery was cleared in 1960 under rabbinical supervision, and the mortal remains were moved to the Amsterdamse Vaart, where a memorial stone was placed in memory of the Bolwerk cemetery.

    Under the existing circumstances, including vandalism, clearance had become a necessity. But when the area was checked, no moved or damaged tombstones were found. He did find some tombstones which were somehow legible. It is remarkable that no fence was erected there, but nobody was aware of the cultural value of the cemetery. The mortal remains of 121 deceased, including three barely legible tombstones were moved to the Jewish cemetery at the Amsterdamse Vaart. A general survey of war damage to Jewish cemeteries concluded that the Bolwerk cemetery had not been damaged during the war years.

    The general cemetery at the Kleverlaan, planned by the garden architect J.D. Zocher, was divided into three parts: a Protestant, a Roman Catholic and a Jewish part. The Jewish part, used from 1832, had a separate entrance at the Doodweg. Themetaher house was planned by the same architect. The tombstones at the Bolwerk were lying on the ground, while at the Kleverlaan cemetery they were standing.

    In 1887 the new cemetery at the Amsterdamse Vaart was already in use and in 1922 a new metaher house was constructed. There was a reception and prayer room in the administrator's house near the cemetery, where the mourners could convene. During the war this cemetery was heavily damaged. After the war the damage was repaired by the government.

    The community building and the Jewish school
    In 1742 a small Jewish school existed already in Haarlem. After the inauguration of the second shulin the Lange Begijnestraat, the old shul was used for Jewish lessons. Since the Law on Elementary Teaching had become in force in 1857, all children were obliged to visit general schools.
    On 22 June 1888 the beautiful new Jewish community building in the Lange Wijngaardstraat was opened. There was a meeting room, the Jewish school, the secretariat and also a small shul. The living quarters of the shamash were also there. Behind the building was the mikwe, the religious bath. The new building and the cemetery were an expression of the prosperous situation of the kehilla.

    As mentioned before, the Jewish school dated from 1742. When the community was still small, religion lessons were given in the teacher's house. Later on the Jewish school was situated at the Goudsmitpleintje, in the Korte Begijnestraat, in the Paarlaarsteeg, at the Bakernessegracht and finally in the Lange Wijngaardstraat. After the acquisition of two houses, there was room for the community meetings. The classrooms were situated on the ground floor and the secretariat and meeting rooms on the first floor. The building and the interior were very beautiful.
    The appointed chief rabbi of Noord Holland had his office there and during the war de Joodse Raad assembled in this building.
    When the shul in the Kenaupark was inaugurated in December 1949 the kehilla did not need the community building anymore, and in 1951 it was sold to the Haarlem municipality, which used it for the traffic police.

    Like other cities Haarlem had Jewish shopkeepers, dealing in textiles, jewelry and furs. There was a photo shop and the "Amsterdamse Koek - en Banketbakkerij." Other Jewish shops sold butter, cheese and meat products. There were industrial enterprises in Jewish hands, like a biscuit factory, a margarine factory and the "Grafische Inrichting Joh. Enschede en Zonen"

    The Joles hospital
    Moses Joles of Haarlem dedicated his inheritance to the foundation of a Jewish hospital. Only the large Jewish communities like Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam possessed a Jewish hospital. A project like that was not so simple. A special committee was formed and Rabbi de Vries had a meeting with the St. Elisabeth Gasthuis. In April 1929 a contract was signed. The new hospital would be joined to the Gasthuis het Groot Heiligland. The Sint Elisabeth's Gasthuis would be responsible for the exploitation and for the financial aspects. The managing physician of the Gasthuis would be the manager of the Jewish hospital. The Jewish hospital would be allowed to use the surgery and Roentgen rooms, as well as the laboratory of the Sint Elisabeth's Gasthuis. The Gasthuis could hire beds in the Joles hospital.
    The Joles hospital was built with bricks fashioned in the 18th century style. In the panels Stars of David were embedded and mezuzoth were affixed to the doors. On the roof was a tall Star of David.
    The kitchen of the Joles hospital operated under rabbinical supervision. The hospital existed from 1930 till 1943. Mr. Joles had stipulated in his testament that "payment should be kept low, in order to ensure access to the rich and the poor." During the war several "onderduikers" were hidden there. On the first floor were two rooms with two beds each. There was a room for the management and one for the rabbi. The rooms of the nurses were in the attic.

    After the war the Joles hospital building was used by the Sint Elisabeth's Gasthuis and later on it was sold to the Haarlem municipality. The proceeds were used to finance the foundation of the Beith Joles home in Haifa and the Rabbijn de Vries home, at the Verspronckweg in Haarlem. The Rabbijn de Vries home was closed in 1991.
    The municipality transformed the hospital building into apartments for young people, but the Stars of David in the door posts are still discernible.

    Rabbi Simon Philip de Vries (1870-1944) and Rabbi Philip Frank (1910-1943)
    This story would not be complete without mentioning two persons who played an important role in Haarlem, Rabbi S. Ph. de Vries and Rabbi P. Frank.

    Simon Philip de Vries was born in 1870 in Neede in de Achterhoek. He was one of nine children of a religious family. His father was a cattle merchant and a butcher. Since there was no shul in Neede, people went to the shul in Borculo.
    Simon was a talented boy and when he was only 13 years old he started studies at the Nederlands Israelitisch Seminarium in Amsterdam. He married Judith de Jong from Haaksbergen.
    He became the head teacher and secretary of the Jewish community in Haarlem and after finishing his rabbinical studies, he became the rabbi of Haarlem.
    As a result of increasing secularization less Jews lived a Jewish life and less and less people visited the synagogue.
    Rabbi de Vries visited Jewish people at home, in order to bring them closer to Judaism and the Jewish community. He was a fervent Zionist, but most orthodox rabbis in Holland opposed his Zionistic attitude.
    He published many articles on Jewish subjects. Between 1928 and 1932 his famous book "Joodse Riten en Symbolen" was published in two parts. (A reprint appeared in 1968).
    He aided Jewish psychiatric patients and Jewish prisoners. He and his wife were arrested and sent to Westerbork, where he comforted his fellow prisoners. Both died in Bergen-Belsen in 1944.

    Worth mentioning is the biography "Rabbijn Simon Philip de Vries" by Eli Dasberg (uitgave De Tijdstroom b.v. Lochem 1973)

    Philip Frank was born in Hilversum in 1910. His father was a shopkeeper. He married Bertha Dunner in 1909. The couple had no children, but in 1926 they adopted Lieselotte Michel, a fugitive girl from Germany, nicknamed "Lilo." After the retirement of rabbi de Vries in 1940 rabbi Frank moved to Haarlem. At the age of 27 he became the chief rabbi of Noord Holland. Together with chief rabbi J.H. Dunner he belonged to a handful of Dutch rabbanim who supported Zionism. During the war he was the chairman ofde Joodse Raad in Haarlem. In February 1943 he was taken hostage by the Germans and was executed together with nine others. He was known for his wise behavior as well for his sensitivity and his way of consoling people.

    After the war
    After the war a villa was bought by the small Jewish community. There was a shul, a meeting room, the secretariat and a mikwe. The basement was reserved for youth meetings.
    From the old shul came the Torah rolls, the silverware and other attributes which had been saved. In the stairwell a stained glass window from the old shul was placed, which depicted a symbolic presentation of the twelve tribes of Israel. Other rescued items were the meeting table, a carpet, wall lightning, a Frisian wall clock, the chandelier and several candlesticks.
    Nowadays the community of Haarlem enjoys a revival. The kehilla has grown and Jewish awareness and tradition have returned. When this article was written, services were held each Shabbat and on the High Festivals !

    Extracted from sources:Yael Benlev-de Jong
    Translated from Dutch:Mechel Jamenfeld
    Editing:Ben Noach
    Final editing:Hanneke Noach

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