In the course of the 17th century, a group of Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam settled in Naarden. Naarden was a beloved place for rich Portuguese traders at that time. Initially the Jews came together in a private house to practice their religion. In 1727 the first synagogue, the Esnoga Magen David de Narda, was consecrated in the Gansoordstraat. At first, the dead were buried around Amsterdam but after 1825 the Jews had their own cemetery inside the walls of Naarden. A Star of David on the façade of the building at Kloosterstraat 78 still reminds one of this graveyard.
In the 19th century, the community of Portuguese Jews was in decline. It was in this period that two letters were written about the Jewish Portuguese synagogue. The first one is by M.C. de Leew and S.L. van Gelder and dated 19 August 1856. In this letter, the writers thank the owners of the Ring synagogue in Naarden for the improvements and beautification that they made possible to the Portuguese synagogue, and they noted that the ‘new’ place of worship will be festively consecrated on the 31st of August. The second letter, to J. Henriquez de Castro, is written by P. Verkerk Wz on 30 November 1856. This document describes the current state of the restored synagogue. It also includes the payment (?) to the building contractor E.J. Nijkerk and son.
These letters are true pearls, as documents concerning this synagogue are very rare because of a monstrous act of pride. The Naarden synagogue was closed down in 1933 because of the decreasing number of religious practitioners. Furious at the declining numbers, a man called S. Ph. Heilbron, burnt all the Naarden synagogue’s archives. These two remaining letters, which give an interesting insight in the history of the Naarden synagogue and the Dutch Jewish community, are two of the few documents that survived this horrible deed.
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Benthe van Houtum