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  • Jewish life in Wijk bij Duurstede in the 17th and 18th centuries

    List of names of genealogical relevance mentioned in the article (in order of appearance):
    Abraham Marcus Frank, Jacob Davidsz, Isack Salomons (Salomon Isaacqs, Isaac Salomons), Meijer Franken, Hertog Hertogse, Eliaser van Buren, Abraham Samuels,Jacob Abrahams, Nahum van Aalten, Jacob Tobias, Abigail Nathan, Hertogh Jacobs, Adolphus Jacobs, Abraham Jacobs, Jacob Levi, Isaac Hijmans, Cristje de Vries,Isaac Auerbach , Wolf Cohen ,Abraham Mozes Levits ,Rabbi David Hes, Louis Worms.

    Family trees of relevance: Heyman, Hakkert.

    Data sources
    There is a dearth of archive material concerning the Jewish community of Wijk bij Duurstede during the 17th and 18th centuries, or even of the number of Jews among its population. Data can nevertheless be derived from more general material such as the 1792 registry of taxes, the minutes of the Wijk magistrate's court of law (1592 - 1794), the roster of the guild of pedlars, and a tax cahier of 1749.
    The oldest Book of Citizens of Wijk bij Duurstede mentions the first Jewish immigrant in 1675, and lists by name a total of 19 Jewish immigrants who took the oath of burghership according to Jewish custom (more judaico). One of these immigrants is Jacob Salomon, who took the oath on the 10th of May, 1746 The magistrate's minutes, which complement the Books of Citizens to some degree, offer more information on the entering of Jews into the burgher community, and in addition they contain a wealth of information concerning the comings and goings of the Jewish citizenry. In these minutes we meet by name and designation those citizens that were remiss in maintenance of their property and were called upon to make amends. Noted for instance is Beligje Jacobs, widow of the banker Abraham Marcus Frank. From 1729 onwards she receives regular notice that a new drain has to be installed on her house, and that the wall of her 'court' is in lamentable condition. Also 'Lijbe the Jew' who resides in 1743 in the Peperstraat is admonished to repair his eave ('luijfel'). Regrettably, personal data are often missing, and Jewish citizens were simply referred to as 'the Jew'. In the spring of 1782 part of Jacob Davidsz' house wall had collapsed into the sewer. Jacob Davidsz was unable to pay the cost of the commissioned carpenter, and in January 1789 the Municipal Beadle is requested to sell the house in the Peperstraat with subtraction of the outstanding payments. Incidentally it is notable that Jewish householders owned five of the eleven houses on the Peperstraat.
    Available is a roster of the guild of pedlars [kramersgilde], containing accounts of the Pedlars' Guild over the 1746- 1797 period. Jewish members are mentioned separately from 1764 onward, and it transpires that during 1746-1797 some 21 Jews were registered with the guild.
    Thus for instance we see that Isack Salomons was a continuous member (with the exception of 1766) from 1746 till 1771. Possibly he was related to the oldest Jewish resident, Salomon Isaacqs. Moreover, this would imply that said pedlar Isack Salomons represents the fourth generation of this family (the first known Salomon Isaacqs of 1671, his son Isaac Salomons, then another son, again named Salomon Isaacqs, and finally Isack Salomons who in 1739, when quite young of age, joins the guild of pedlars).
    On the eleventh of September 1775 the municipal council of Wijk deals with a request by 'the housewyfe of Jacob Davidsz', Jewe' to be allowed to open a lodging house for 'decent individuals of the Jewish nation and Christians'. The wording of this request reflects the position of the Jewish community within the township Wijk bij Duurstede: it is conscious of its own identity, but does not live in separation. Already early in the 18th century Jews apparently took active part in the economically and socially so important life of the guilds.

    Demographic data and wealth status
    Regrettably, only very few data are available on the number of Jews in Wijk bij Duurstede before the 18th century. It can be established that there had been about 50 Jewish persons in town, but it is not clear whether they lived there for long periods. Of these fifty Jews, 30 came to the town as immigrants between 1671 and 1795.
    Accurate population figures for the year 1749 may be derived from the register of 'tax per head', also known as 'consumption money'. According to this tax register there were 28 persons belonging to 6 Jewish households in 1749, representing 2.7% of the total population.
    Based on said 1749 tax register we know that the population of Wijk was divided into eleven classes for the purpose of per-head taxation. This classification shows one Jewish family to belong to the lowermost, untaxable population stratum namely Meijer Franken with his wife and three children, who resided in the quarter of Cloosterbuurt. To the lowest taxation class belonged the already-mentioned pedlar Isaq Salomon and the household of Hertog Hertogse, an immigrant from Lithuania who settled in Wijk in 1744. The Hertogse family soon came into dire straits, as appears from Hertog's request from the town magistrate for an affidavit, which would state that he has been "since 1744 a citizen of this town, and that by today he has been reduced by extreme destitution to a lamentable condition". Why did he request an affidavit? Presumably because it would give him the right to apply for public dole.
    In the fourth class we find the banker Eliaser van Buren and his 5 children, residing in the Peperstraat, and Abraham Samuels from the Oeverstraat quarter. Top income and property among the Jewish community belonged to the childless couple Abrahams who lived in the Waterspoort quarter. Jacob Abrahams had obtained citizenship in 1746 and was a butcher by trade. Beside that he served as the congregation's parnas (synagogue superintendent). The tax register also allows inference about some Jewish citizen's standard of living. The case is on record of Nahum van Aalten, who in 1732 converted to 'the true Christian faith'. His family was reduced to such poverty that he was allowed to collect alms among 'the Christian congregation who would be willing to give'. Possibly this conversion was instigated by the hope for some special betterment.

    Professions and professional organizations
    It is not possible to establish the various professions of the Jewish inhabitants that were identified by the present research, since the professional guilds, except for the guild of pedlars, did not keep lists of members. Five of the Jewish citizens owned loan banks, two were physicians, three were glaziers, and two of the five Jewish butchers, who dealt in hides, were also members of the shoemakers' guild.
    The pedlars' roster shows that 21 Jews had been members of this guild. In 1749 this amounted to over 6% of the membership (Jews numbered only 2.7% of the total population), indicating that Wijk's body of pedlars professed tolerance toward non-Christians brothers in trade. Less tolerance, however, was shown toward "blacklegs", i. e. individuals who traded in goods outside the guild's monopoly. In June 1771 Jacob Tobias was caught selling coffee beans in the Peperstraat. It appears that said Jacob Tobias and his wife Abigail Nathan were regular troublemakers. Jacob did jail time several years later, and Abigail got into conflict with the guild because she sold seamstress goods without having registered as a member. When the court's beadle came at last to her house to collect the fine, she scolded him for 'knave' [schelm]. After much ranting and raving she gave in to the guild's insistence and applied for membership. Unlike at other communities, Amsterdam among them, no limit was set on the number of Jews admitted to the guild, nor did they have to pay higher dues.
    On the other hand, Jews were not eligible for directoral functions within the guild, which by 1785 was already on the verge of disbanding, and the matter became irrelevant after the guild's demise in 1797.

    The bankers
    During the final decades of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century, Jewish lessors of the Bank of Loans were active in the town. Jews ran this line of business from 1674 to the end of 1751 continuously.
    The first Jewish banker to be mentioned is Hertogh Jacobs, who came to Wijk bij Duurstede in 1674. The municipal management decreed that Hertogh Jacobs, apparently as a special concession, would be exempted as much as possible from the 'billet payment' (a charge for housing a garrison within the town). He also was granted permission to bury the dead 'in the Jewish manner' within the township perimeter.
    Hertogh Jacobs hailed from Veenendaal, where his father Adolphus Jacobs was holder of the local bank. Hertogh's multiple dissensions with the local magistrate during the 1684- 1764 period apparently point to his failure to set up a flourishing banking business. Thus for instance it appears that after only a year after establishing his business, Hertogh Jacobs did not have sufficient security bonds. The municipal council admonished Jacobs more than once to acquire confiscation, securities to the required value, and referred him time and again to the stipulations of his contract. In March 1676 the banker still had not complied with the council’s demands, and the threat of confiscation is raised again. A week later the court's beadle is charged to take up residence within the bank. The requisite securities must by now have reached a value of at least one thousand guilders. Hertogh Jacobs could not meet this sum, and on the 31st of March 1676 he proposes his father and his nephew Abraham Jacobs to vouch for him financially.
    But then Hertogh Jacobs obtains the support of Baron Johan van Reede van Renswoude, who intercedes for him with the municipal management. The minutes concerning this issue are somewhat vague, but Hertogh Jacobs is allowed to continue his banking activities. Soon afterward his position in the town is significantly reinforced. By 1678 he has become one of the three concessionaires of mill taxation, and in 1680 of the butchery tax and brewery tax. In 1677 he engages his brother-in-law Abraham Marcus, town citizen since 1675, to become his assistant in banking affairs.
    Between 1675 and 1684 Hertogh Jacobs changes his address 4 times. He resides in the Leuterstraetse Buert, the Merckt quarter, at the upper end of the Peperstraat, arriving finally at the Vorderstraet.

    The oldest Jewish cemeteries
    Beside their own ecclesiastic organization, the Jews of Wijk bij Duurstede had since the thirties of the 18th century disposal of their own cemetery. Possibly they had burial privileges from an earlier time, since the earliest contracts with the bankers mention burial according to Jewish custom on ground assigned for this purpose by the magistrate. The earliest solid reference dates from 18 june 1731. On that date the magistrate decided to burden several town councilors with the task of finding a fitting burial terrain for those Jews "who came to live here strengthened with families". It transpires a number of years later that a garden plot, leased by the widow Van Roelof van Bladel from the municipality, was destined to become a Jewish cemetery. The plot was situated jut outside the city wall near the Womens' Gate [Vrouwenpoort], at the foot of Ruisdael's Mill. Apparently the dimensions of this property were rather small, because already in 1737 space has become cramped and permission for expansion is requested. Again the councilors reach agreement to grant the Jews a piece of ground adjoining the existing cemetery. Two months later the Municipal Council agrees to allow the Jews sole use of "the large gate belonging to their cemetery". Apparently the cemetery remained in use till the end of the 18th century, since mention is made in 1789 of "the Jews' cemetery outside the Women’s' Gate, between the city wall and the Leckendijk". Notwithstanding this expansion, the increasing stream of Jewish immigrants who came to settle rendered the burial area again inadequate. It has to be assumed that further local expansion was not feasible, because the parnas Jacob Levi approaches the magistrate in June 1776 with a request to allow the Jews the use of a tract of land near the Wijkersloot for the interment of their dead. Within a short while, however, it transpires that a certain burgher of Wijk by name of Jan van Agthoven has property rights on that terrain, and he is disinclined to relinquish them.
    Subsequently, the parnassim cast their eye on another parcel outside the town perimeter, situated on municipal property known as 'the Stroobandse Capel'. In this case we have a description of the area: '17 by 3 rod' which means about 721 square meters. The magistrate deferred his decision even though asking advice from the "gentlemen of finances", and we have to conclude that the 'Stroobandse Capel' never became a Jewish burial place. For the time it is not known how the Jews of Wijk bridged the time interval between 1776 and the use of the burial area "Along the Wall. Neither is it known when the oldest Jewish cemetery, the one outside the Womens' Gate, was cleared. Today two tombstones are visible at this cemetery: the one on the grave of Isaac Hijmans (1791- 1817), and the marker on the grave of Cristje de Vries (1796- 1814). With the dissolution of the Jewish congregation of Wijk bij Duurstede in 1923, the ownership of the old cemetery was transferred to the name of N.I.G. Utrecht. The remaining 17 tombstones at the mixed cemetery at the Steenstraat and Along the Wall are today the petrified witnesses of the vanished Jewish community of Wijk bij Duurstede.

    Circumcisions at Wijk bij Duurstede
    Jewish congregations in Holland's larger cities usually had a resident mohel (ritual circumciser). For the circumcision of Jewish male babies in the smaller towns, such as Wijk bij Duurstede, the ritual was carried out, pro deo, by a mohel from outside, who was reimbursed for his travel expenses. Themohalim who served the congregation of Wijk over the years 1773- 1850 included:

    Isaac Auerbach (1773 -1782) from Amersfoort
    Wolf Cohen (1792- 1808), from Amersfoort
    Abraham Mozes Levits (1812), from Amersfoort
    Rabbi David Hes (1823- 1850), from Tiel.

    More details hereabout can be found in the circumcision registers of the Amersfoort section of this website.
    A mohel of whom we do not have the name and who was active during the years of the French occupation told the mayor of Zaltbommel that he destroyed his records of performed circumcisions, presumably to prevent the recruitment of Jewish youngsters to the Jewish Corps, established in 1809 by the Napoleonic army, and which aroused considerable opposition among the Jewish community.
    Themohalim kept their own records, in Hebrew, and these belonged to them personally, not to the Jewish congregation. As a result many of these circumcision records became lost with time. As far as is known, 48 such registers are still extant in public and private archives throughout the Netherlands. They are the only relics of what must have been the many hundreds that were kept by the faithful ministers of the oldest Jewish rite.

    Wartime hiding of Jews in Wijk bij Duurstede
    During the Nazi occupation of 1940-1945 the Roman Catholic Parish Church offered in 1943 a hideout for Jews at its headquarters on the market. One of these was Louis Worms and his wife and child. At a later date - probably after 'Mad Tuesday' *[Dolle Dinsdag] – these hiders moved out to a precinct on the Dijkstraat, next to the Sailors' House, and thus survived the war. Possibly more Jewish fugitives found safety at the parochial headquarters.
    Jews found safety also at a number of private addresses. in a hiding place beneath the floor at the residence of a school principal in the Vogelenbuurt suburb for example and at the Golden Lion [Gouden Leeuw] restaurant. The names and fates of these Jewish hiders are unknown.
    Town Councillor A. J. J. van Bemmel played a major role in the Dutch underground. His farm 'De Vogelpoel' [The Bird Pool], no. 3 along the Wijkersloot, was headquarters of the local resistance movement, and housed among other things an ammunition depot. From here, attacks were launched against the German occupation force, which included a raid on the post office and the seizing of a consignment of food vouchers. A number of fugitives found a hiding place at the Vogelpoel farm, but it is not known if these included Jews. For his heroic activities during the Occupation, Van Bemmel was awarded the Cross of Resistance.
    · Mad Tuesday is a Dutch name for Tuesday September 5, 1944. On this day many rumors were spreading in the occupied Netherlands that the liberation by Allied forces was at hand.

    Source and credits:
    "Ordentelijke lieden van de Joodsche Natie" bijdragen tot de Joodse Geschiedenis van Wijk bij Duurstede
    1671-1923 van F.E. van Hekelen, J.Becker & R.V. Brilleman
    ISBN 90-75207-17-7
    Historische Reeks Kromme-Rijngebied 2-1994

    Editorship and translation:Trudi Asscher and Ben Noach

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