Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam

Wednesday, 14 October 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

© A.A.W.J. Rietman/cc-by-sa-4.0

© A.A.W.J. Rietman/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Portuguese Synagogue<, also known as the Esnoga, or Snoge, is a late 17th-century Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam, completed in 1675. Esnoga is the word for synagogue in Ladino, the traditional Judaeo-Spanish language of Sephardic Jews. The Amsterdam Sephardic community (History of the Jews in Spain, History of the Jews in Portugal, Alhambra Decree) was one of the largest and richest Jewish communities in Europe during the Dutch Golden Age, and their very large synagogue reflected this. The synagogue remains an active place of worship and is also a popular tourist attraction.

On December 12, 1670, the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam acquired the site to build a synagogue and construction work began on April 17, 1671, under the architect Elias Bouman. On August 2, 1675, the Esnoga was finished. The design is based on the plans for King Solomon’s temple. The inscription above the entrance is from Psalm 5:8: “In the abundance of Thy loving kindness will I come into Thy house”. The sign also contains “1672”, the year the building was intended to be completed, and “Aboab”, the name of the chief rabbi who initiated the construction project. The building is free-standing and rests on wooden piles; the foundation vaults can be viewed by boat from the canal water underneath the synagogue. The entrance to the main synagogue is off a small courtyard enclosed by low buildings housing the winter synagogue, offices and archives, homes of various officials, the rabbinate, a mortuary, and noted Etz Hayim library. The interior of the synagogue is a single, very high rectangular space retaining its original wooden benches. The floor was covered with fine sand, in the old Dutch tradition, to absorb dust, moisture and dirt from shoes and to muffle the noise. Only five synagogues in the world had a sand floor, and this was the only one with such a floor surviving outside the Caribbean region. During the 1955–1959 renovation, the former Etz Hayim seminary auditorium was redesigned as a winter synagogue; central heating and electric lighting were added. The benches were taken from a synagogue originally built in 1639 and the Hechal dates from 1744.The ark is made from a solid piece of jacaranda wood from Brazil and the main sanctuary does not have any internal electric system; two chandeliers that hold 1000 candles are lit when necessary.

Portugese Synagoge in 1816 by Gerrit Lamberts © A.A.W.J. Rietman/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Johnbod/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Massimo Catarinella/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Suicasmo/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Tadeáš Bednarz/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Portugese Synagoge in 1816 by Gerrit Lamberts
The Portuguese Synagogue has one of the oldest Jewish libraries in the world and filled with original and rare texts and is constantly called upon for academic and rabbinical research. It was founded in 1616 and has been housed in the historical complex of the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam since 1675. In 1889 the private library of the then librarian David Montezinos was donated to Ets Haim and the library is known since then as Ets Haim/Livraria Montezinos. In the 1940s, the library’s contents were shipped to Germany by the Nazis and the books were returned to the Netherlands after the war; the books were sent to Israel in 1979 and returned to Amsterdam in 2000. In 2014, in partnership with the National Library of Israel, a majority of the manuscripts were digitized, making the catalog available online and free.

The interior of the Portuguese Synagogue is of the longitudinal Iberian-Sephardic type. The Holy Ark is situated in the South East Corner of the building and faces Jerusalem. On the other side of the room, opposite of the ark, is a tebah. The Women’s Gallery is supported by twelve stone columns, each which represents one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In addition to these columns, there are four large brass chandeliers that hold a total of a thousand candles. All of the candles are lit in the synagogue during worship services. The light of these candles shine together through the 72 windows that exist in the building. Around the building, there are numerous offices, archives, the rabbinate, the mortuary, and the Ets Haim. The Ets Haim (Tree of Life) is the library that contains valuable collections of Sephardic manuscripts.

Read more on Portuguese Synagogue Amsterdam und Wikipedia Portuguese Synagogue Amsterdam (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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