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  • The Jewish community in Vlaardingen

    Source: Joden in Vlaardingen, 18e eeuw - 1935 (1943) - H.J. Luth.pdf

    Introduction

    Data from the period before 1830 can only be retrieved via Jewish first names and surnames in the sources that are available. An added problem is however that Protestants in Vlaardingen also used names such as Abraham, Izaak and Jacob.

    For some reason fewer Jews settled in Vlaardingen than in the adjoining cities of Maassluis and Schiedam. While a synagogue was already in use in Maassluis in 1769 and in Schiedam in 1790, Vlaardingen did not have one until 1862, and then only for a short time. Although Jews lived in Vlaardingen before then, their number was too small to found a kehilla (community), so they went to synagogue in Schiedam instead. Some did not stay in Vlaardingen for long, as they were employed as maids or only lodged there.

    Jews in Vlaardingen before 1850
    It is unlikely that many Jews visited Vlaardingen or lived there before 1850. In any case there is little trace of them in the archives. The earliest mentions are criminal cases. In 1736 a Jewish man stood trial for attempted murder with robbery of a woman, which was only prevented because two carriages happened to come past. It transpired that he came from Frankfort and had been begging, stealing and burgling for years. He was hanged in Vlaardingen.

    A butcher resided in Vlaardingen from 1795, but he probably moved away again in or before 1798. Later on more Jews were recorded in the census counts, some of whom bought properties, but not all of them stayed.

    Establishment of the Jewish community in 1862

    As the number of Jews in Vlaardingen had risen to 50 in 1862, it was decided to set up a Jewish community. That year a number of Jewish heads of families requested permission from King William III to establish an Israelite community. The reasons for their request were that they had to go to Schiedam to attend services and their children to receive religious instruction, which was very difficult because of the distance involved. Burials were also a probem, as the Jewish communities in the neighbouring cities often created difficulties. Vlaardingen city council was prepared to put a piece of land at their disposal, provided there was a Jewish community in existence. After approvals from various authorities in The Hague and Vlaardingen, the Jewish community in Vlaardingen was established on 1 April 1862. Official recognition by King William III took place by Royal Decree on April 14th. The Israelite community of Vlaardingen became a subsidiary synagogue, belonging to the Delft ring synagogue and the jurisdiction of the Nederlands Israelitische Hoofdsynagoge (NIHS: Dutch Israelite Main Synagogue) in The Hague. At that time there were two main synagogues in the province of Zuid-Holland: in The Hague and Rotterdam. Strangely enough Vlaardingen belonged to The Hague and not Rotterdam.

    The Synagogue

    Initially a huissynagoge (synagogue in someone’s home) was set up in a rented room. Even before Royal recognition had been received, the heads of the households rented a property in the Nieuwe Havenstraat, which was inaugurated as synagogue in April 1862. The property was large enough to house the cantor and the religious education teacher with his family. In 1869 the property was sold.

    Reports about the condition of the Jewish community and the departure of the cantor suggest that the synagogue ceased to exist in 1866. The 40 Jewish inhabitants had no choice but to attend the synagogue in Schiedam as before. A few years later, in 1871, the property in the Havenstraat was bought by a Jew, but it is not clear whether it was used by the Jewish community again.

    In September 1894 a synagogue was inaugurated again in Vlaardingen, in the Zomerstraat. In the Vlaardingen newspaper of 29 September 1894 the synagogue and its inauguration were described as follows: “The new house of worship shows upon entry the gratitude of the Israelite residents for the re-establishment of a building in which they can exercise their religious duties according to biblical ordinance, and love for their old faith. The interior and the furnishings bears witness to voluntary contributions and charitable gifts that were generously donated.” “In the centre of the room is the almemmor with the bima (elevated platform) from which the reader says his prayers. Directly opposite is the Holy Ark which is meant to contain the velvet Torah scrolls. The floor is covered with coconut matting, in front of the Holy Ark with Persian rugs as well.” “The most important ceremony was carrying in the Holy Torah scrolls and placing them into the Holy Ark. Three little girls scattered greenery in front of the five bearers, who, after circling the almemmor seven times under the accompaniment of an antiphon between the reader and a children’s choir, placed the scrolls into the Holy Ark.”

    This synagogue was not granted a long life either. Probably due to lack of community members and means it was closed in 1906. Five guilded wooden candle sticks are still in the antiquarian collection in the attic of the Vlaardingen town hall.

    Cantor and teacher

    During the first few years the synagogue did not have its own cantor, but in April 1879 a teacher was installed who fulfilled this role. He earned 365 guilders per year, so there must have been a Jewish school as well. In Vlaardingen’s municipal archives his predecessor’speech on the occasion of Queen Wilhelmina’s accession to the throne, has been preserved.

    Associations

    A funeral society was founded in Vlaardingen in 1895. In 1899 a youth club was set up.

    The Jewish Cemetery

    Before 1862 Jewish people in Vlaardingen were dependent on Schiedam, not only for synagogue attendance but also for burying their dead. Jews in Vlaardingen who died before then, were buried in the cemetery near the well-known ruin of Mathenesse in Schiedam. However since 1 April 1862, when permission had been granted for the establishment of a Jewish community in Vlaardingen, a Jewish cemetery could be opened as well. Therefore a request was made to the city council in May 1862 to obtain a lease for a plot of land. The plot they had in mind was “part of a meadow beneath the Schiedam access path measuring about seven square rods and twenty yards”. Permission was also requested “to surround the land by a ditch and make it accessible via a plank or a small bridge”. On 6 July 1962 the Mayor and Councillors gave permission for the construction of a cemetery of 7 rods and 30 yards (a little more than expected) to be held in eternal leasehold for the annual sum of ƒ 13.14. According to the correspondence of the Mayor and Councillors of 3 April 1863, a Royal Decree was apparently required for this.

    Thus from 1864 Vlaardingen Jews were buried there, although some were taken by their families to the place they came from (Maassluis, Oud-Beijerland, Rotterdam and Schiedam) and buried there.

    In September 1881 the Jewish community submitted a planning permission request to the city coucil for a small building along the ditch near the Schiedam dike at the entrance of the cemetery. It was meant to be a storage place but was probably also to be used for tahara (cleansing) purposes. Within five days the Mayor and Councillors gave their permission. The last funeral took place in July 1900, of a six-year old little boy who had drowned.

    As the Jewish community ceased to exist at the beginning of the twentieth century, the cemetery fell into disrepair. It deteriorated so much in 1928 and 1929 that the small bridge and storage place had to be demolished.

    In 1958 a survey was published of all cemeteries in Vlaardingen, in which a seperate paragraph was dedicated to “the Jewish grave”:

    “For a long time the Jews’ grave remained an interesting little island, sheltered behind the Schiedam dike and the Schiedamseweg (at the end of the Stenekade), and bordered by thick bushes and straggly willow wood, no longer restrained by a pruning knife. Nowhere were Hawthorn blossoms more highly scented in spring than here, nowhere was the weed vegetation in all its variety more luxuriant than on this old delapidated grave. All kinds of song birds had established their hidden nests, and ducks and other waterfowl their breeding ground, field mice and other creatures had found a hiding place beneath the two or three toppled and lopsided memorial stones, which were only visible on a winter’s day when leaves, flowers and stems were lying dead on the ground. The presence of those simple stones, like watchmen of the dead, created a somewhat eerie and frightening atmosphere for the young, which kept them away from the grounds for a long time and discouraged rowdiness. But as the city expanded eastwards , the silence and mysteriousness of the Jews’ grave was sadly lost and rowdiness increased in this place, with all its consequences.”

    In 1918 there were also plans for expansion which led the Vlaardingen city council to ask the Jewish authorities for the return of the land. A new road was planned, and the cemetery was obstructing progress. This was not such a simple matter, which was not solved until 1940 after years of exchanging letters. As the cemetery was no longer in use, it was suggested to transfer the graves to the cemetery in Maassluis or Rotterdam. The Hague’s Chief Rabbi explained that according to religious rules this was impossible and he added that in the Netherlands this had always been taken into consideration. This was followed by a discussion which went on for years between the Jewish authorities and rabbis and Vlaardingen city council. Around 1921 the Rotterdam Israelite community suggested to relinquish the leashold with the suggested conditions, but Vlaardingen’s Mayor and Councillors did not react. After a year and a half the department of public works and possessions advised the Mayor and Councillors not to relinquish the leasehold, as the grounds were not large and the district would face high costs if all conditions which had been agreed, would have to be met. And thus the discussions continue. A passer-by submitted a complaint about the enormous neglect of the cemetery. Apparently 43 Jews died in Vlaardingen between 1862 and 1928. The question was now: where were they buried? According to the Vlaardingen municipal archives only five Jews were buried there, but it turned out that four of them had the same name. Records from the municipal archives show later that 18 corpses were buried there, 8 of which were children. It transpired however that some of these graves were in a public garden which was constructed in 1938 next to the original cemetery. Eventually it was decided and agreed that the existing grave stones would be repaired by Vlaardingen district and a stone would be placed for the other graves a stone with the names of the children who were buried there. Vlaardingen district would take care of the upkeep, which was laid down in writing. In 1991 it turned out that not all conditions had been complied with. It was not until 2010 that a memorial plate was installed.

    Means of existence

    Nearly all Vlaardingen Jews were shopkeepers or retailers. Most of them had a shop or company along the Hoogstraat. A relatively large number were concerned with trading in gold, silver and shares, and organising lotteries.

    The Second World War

    Thirteen Jews from Vlaardingen did not return. A list of 31 Vlaardingen residents who hid Jews is kept by the municipal archives.

    In conclusion

    The only reminders Vlaardingen has of the existence of a Jewish community, apart from archives, are the small cemetery on the Schiedamseweg and the five candle sticks from the synagogue. Vlaardingen’s Jewish community was added to Rotterdam’s in 1920.

    Number of Jews in Vlaardingen

    1830       1
    1840       1
    1854      20
    1857      34
    1861      44
    1862      50
    1864      58
    1868      43
    1874      53
    1900      66
    1940      58

    Extracted from source:Yael (Lotje) Ben Lev-de Jong
    Translated from Dutch: Sara Kirby-Nieweg
    Review:Ben Noach
    End editing:Sara Kirby-Nieweg & Anthony (Tony) Kirby


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