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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in the Netherlands 02: 17th century - "Golden Age"

Portuguese Marranos - Jews from Portugal, Italy, and Turkey (Ottoman Empire) - Jewish center Amsterdam - Brazil - behavior certificate - Jews in the East India Company - Ashkenazim

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands,
                        vol. 12, col. 977, coins for the night entrance
                        for the Amsterdam ghetto
amplifyEncyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 977, coins: Silver tokens, used by the hevra kaddisha (community) if the Amsterdam Ashkenazi community as passes for entry into the ghetto at night. The one on the left is dated 1682, the one on the right 1671. Jerusalem, Israel Museum. Photo David Harris, Jerusalem

from: Netherlands; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<The Marranos and the Early Communities.

Among the Portuguese merchants in the Netherlands in the 17th century many were Marranos. It is known of one of them, Marcus Perez, that he became a Calvinist and played an important role in the Netherlands' revolt against Spain. Without doubt there were many Marranos among the 20,000 merchants, industrialists, and scholars who left Antwerp in 1585 for the Republic of the United Provinces.

Around 1590 the first indications of a Marrano community are to be found in *Amsterdam, but its members did not openly declare themselves as Jews. The Beth Jaäcob  community was founded in secret, apparently around 1600 (in the house of Jacob *Tirado). It was discovered in 1603 and the Ashkenazi rabbi Moses Uri b. Joseph *ha-Levi, who had come from Emden the previous year, was arrested.

[since 1604: Jews in Alkmaar - since 1605: Jews in Rotterdam and Haarlem - Jewish center Amsterdam]

Religious liberty was not granted in Amsterdam and therefore the Marranos who had returned to Judaism, along with newly arrived Jews from Portugal, Italy, and Turkey [[Ottoman Empire]], tried to obtain a foothold somewhere else. In 1604 they were granted a charter in Alkmaar, and in 1605 in *Rotterdam and *Haarlem. Not only were they accorded privileges regarding military service and the Sabbath but they were also permitted to build a synagogue and open a cemetery as soon as their numbers reached 50, and to print (col. 975)

Hebrew books. Nevertheless, only a few availed themselves of these privileges, and in spite of the difficulties most Jews settled in Amsterdam; among them was the representative of the sultan of Morocco, Don Samuel *Palache.

[1608: first Sephardi rabbi - no uniform policy toward the Jews until 1795 - Jews in Dutch Brazil 1634-1654 - protection for Dutch Jews abroad - Ashkenazim and Sephardim]

In 1608 a second community, Neveh Shalom, was founded by Isaac Franco and in the same year the first Sephardi rabbi, Joseph *Pardo, was appointed. As the legal status of the Jews was not clearly defined the authorities were asked by various bodies to clarify their attitude: the two lawyers, Hugo *Grotius and Adriaan Pauw, were asked to draw up special regulations for the Jews. However, in a resolution of Dec. 13, 1619, the provinces of Holland and West Friesland decided to allow each city to adopt its own policy toward the Jews.

The other provinces followed this example, and this situation remained in force until 1795. For this reason the status of the Jews differed greatly in the various towns. In Amsterdam there were no restrictions on Jewish settlement, but Jews could not become burghers and were excluded from most trades; however, no such disabilities existed in several other towns. A large number of Portuguese Jews, in search of greater economic opportunities, took part in the expedition to *Brazil and in 1634 Joan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen granted the charter they had requested.

When the Netherlands was compelled to cede Brazil to Portugal (1654) many Jews returned to Amsterdam. The Dutch Republic, however, demanded that its Jews be recognized as full citizens abroad and that no restrictive measure be imposed on them if they visited a foreign country, especially Spain (1657). The Ashkenazim also enjoyed the rights which the Portuguese Jews had obtained in the larger towns.

[18th century: towns with Jewish liberty - Jewish robbers - behavior certificate in most cities - power of the parnasim - laws different from town to town]

In the first half of the 18th century in the eastern part of the country also, in the area bordering Germany, small communities could be founded with complete religious liberty. Following on the activities of some Jewish robbers, however, several cities enacted measures against Jewish settlement: *Groningen (1710), *Utrecht (1713), Gouda and the province of Friesland (1712), the province of Overijssel (1724). *Amersfoort protested against one such regulation in the province of Gelderland (1726), and it was decided to introduce a certificate of good behavior, which subsequently became a requirement in most cities. Because this certificate was issued by the parnasim [[leaders]], who also had to (col. 976)

guarantee the good behavior of the applicant, they acquired considerable power over the newcomers.

Until *emancipation the legal position of the Jews remained unclear since it was wholly dependent on local or provincial authorities. In legal cases the Jews were subject to the laws of the land and were judged in the government courts. As they could not take the usual - Christian - oath, a special formula was introduced by the different provinces (the last in Overijssel in 1746), but this had no derogatory content. Sometimes Jews even sought the decision of Christian scholars in communities in the case of serious internal conflicts, as in Amsterdam in 1673 where the Polish kehillah [[community]] was ordered to join the German one (see below) and when the authorities had to approve the regulations of the kehillah.

Economic Expansion.

[since 1610: Amsterdam as a world trade center - Jewish money business and in the East India Company - sugar, silk, tobacco, and diamond industry]

In spite of the restrictive regulations to which they were subject (which included among other things exclusion from the existing guilds), the Sephardi Jews were able to acquire some economic importance. Thanks to their knowledge of languages, administrative experience, and international relationships, they played an important part in the expanding economy of the young Republic of the Netherlands, especially from 1610 onward when Amsterdam became an established center of world trade.

After 1640 there was an increase in the number of current account customers and the size of their accounts at the discount bank (Wisselbank). In the second half of the 17th century the Sephardim also occupied an important place among the shareholders of the East India Company, the most powerful Netherlands enterprise.

Portuguese Jews also acquired some prominence in industry, especially in *sugar refineries, and the silk, tobacco, and *diamond industries; although the latter had been initiated by Christian polishers, in the course of time it became an exclusively Jewish industry.

[Jewish book printing]

However they became most celebrated for *book printing; in 1626 a large number of works were produced at a high standard of printing for the day.

[Jews as army suppliers, money lenders and speculators at Amsterdam, The Hague, and Maarssen - colonial profits]

Among the richest Portuguese Jews, who were purveyors to the army and made loans to the court, were Antonio Alvarez *Machado, the *Pereira family, Joseph de Medina and his sons, and the baron Antonio Lopez *Suasso. These and other Portuguese Jews traded in stocks and shares from the second half of the 17th century and probably constituted the majority of traders in this field (see *Stock Exchange). Such activity was centered in Amsterdam; the only other important settlements were in The *Hague, because of the proximity of the royal court, and Maarssen, a village near Utrecht (which itself did not admit Jews) which was the center of the country houses of the rich Portuguese families. From Amsterdam the Portuguese Jews took part in the economic exploration and exploitation of old and new regions, mainly in the Western (col. 977)

hemisphere: Brazil, New Amsterdam, *Surinam, and Curaçao.

[18th century: decline of the trade and economy - 54% impoverished Jews by the end of the 18th century]

During the course of the 18th century trade declined and economic activity concentrated to a growing extent on stockjobbing. Daring speculations and successive crises led to the downfall of important families, such as the De *Pintos. The situation worsened after the economic crisis of 1772 / 73 and became grave during the French occupation (from 1794) when trade in goods practically came to a standstill. Government monetary measures struck especially at the rentiers [[renters?]], and by the end of the 18th century the once wealthy community of Amsterdam included a large number of paupers: 54% of the members had to be given financial support.

[[Supplement: The Dutch regime in the colonies was absolutely racist and harsh. The colonial trade brought big profits first above all from the Spice Islands in the today's Indonesia. But then the colonial trade changed by the breakoff of trade monopolies, with plant cultivations also in Africa and South America, and England became a big concurrence with its "American" and African and Asian possessions]].

Cultural Activities of the Portuguese Community.

[Cultural expansion of the Jewish community during the "Golden Age" of the Netherlands - notable families]

The 17th century, the "Golden Age" of the Republic of the Netherlands, was also a time of cultural expansion for the Portuguese community. The medical profession was the most popular, and there were often several physicians in one family, as in the case of the Pharar family (Abraham "el viejo", David, and Abraham), and the *Bueno family (no less than eight, the most famous being Joseph, who in 1625 was called to the sickbed of Prince Maurits of Nassau, and whose son, Ephraim *Bueno, was painted by Rembrandt),

Encyclopaedia
                Judaica: Netherlands, vol.12, col.975: Hezekiah Bueno,
                portrait by Rembrandt: Ephraim Hezekiah Bueno, Amsterdam
                physician, writer, and publisher. Etching, school of
                Rembrandt. Amsterdam, Empire Museum (Rijksmuseum)
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Netherlands, vol.12, col.975: Hezekiah Bueno, portrait by Rembrandt: Ephraim Hezekiah Bueno,
Amsterdam physician, writer, and publisher. Etching, school of Rembrandt. Amsterdam, Empire Museum (Rijksmuseum)

and the De Meza, *Aboab, and De Rocamora families. The most celebrated physicians were *Zacutus Lusitanus and Isaac *Orobio de Castro. From 1655 onward there were physicians who had completed their studies in Holland, (col. 978)

especially in Leiden and Utrecht. They were free to practice their profession among non-Jews also, but they were required to take a special oath.

[Discriminations are not followed in the guild of surgeons and pharmacists]

In Amsterdam, where the surgeons and pharmacists (who needed no academic training) were organized into guilds, Jews could not be officially admitted to these professions (according to the regulation of 1632). Nevertheless they set up in practice, with the result that in 1667 they were forbidden to sell medicine to non-Jews. This regulation was ignored, and so when a new regulation was issued in 1711 the restrictive clause was not included.

[Jewish artists in Holland: illuminators, engravers, writers]

Many Portuguese Jews were artists (notably the illuminator Shalom *Italia and engraver Jacob Gadella) and writers, mainly of poems and plays in Spanish and Portuguese; there were even two special clubs where Spanish poetry was studies. The best-known poet was Daniel Levi (Miguel) de *Barrios, the first historian of the Marrano settlement in the Netherlands.

[Community life: Jewish studies, literature, Torah school and teachers]

Encyclopaedia
                Judaica: Netherlands, vol.12, col.976: Dutch hanukkha
                lamp
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Netherlands, vol.12, col.976: Dutch hanukkha lamp: Dutch Hanukkah lamp, 17th century,
brass, 13 1/2 x 13 inches (34.5 x 33 cm.). Cecil Roth Collection. Photo Werner Braun, Jerusalem

More interesting, however, was the high level of study of Judaism and its literature from the early days of the settlement, and this in spite of the fact that large numbers of the newcomers had returned to Judaism at an advanced age. In order to teach the younger generation about Judaism the two kehillot [[communities]] in Amsterdam, Beth Jaäcob and Neveh Shalom, founded in 1616 the Talmud Torah or Ets Haim yeshivah [[religious Torah school]]. Through the efforts of teachers from the Sephardi Diaspora, such as Saul Levi *Morteira and Isaac Aboab da *Fonseca, the yeshivah became renowned. Among the later teachers were *Manasseh Ben Israel, Mosses Raphael de *Aguilar, and Jacob *Sasportas.

[Jewish book printing in Holland]

The facilities for printing books (see above) contributed to the high level of scholarship, and the independent production (col. 979)

of scientific, theological, and literary works in Hebrew also developed. The most important writers were Moses *Zacuto, Solomon de *Oliveyra, Joseph *Penso de la Vega, and in the 18th century David *Franco-Mendes.

[Inner quarrels about the Jewish religion, leadership and deviators - Shabbatean movement]

The return of the Marranos to Judaism was accompanied by conflicts about the nature of their religion. In 1618 a group of strictly Orthodox Jews left Beth Jaäcob and founded the Beth Jisrael community because they did not accept the liberal leadership of the parnas [[president]] David Pharar. Soon after, Uriel da *Costa's attack on Orthodox Judaism caused an upheaval throughout the whole *Marrano Diaspora. The most famous case was that of Baruch *Spinoza, who was banned from the kehillah [[community]] for his blasphemous opinions.

At this period - as among Sephardim elsewhere - Lurianic *Kabbalah had many followers in Amsterdam, which explains the enthusiasm for *Shabbetai Zevi that prevailed in the community in 1666. The Shabbateans maintained a strong influence for a long period and during the chief rabbinate of Solomon *Ayllon there was a serious conflict in which the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Amsterdam Zevi Hirsch *Ashkenazi (Hakham Zevi) was involved (1713). The failure of the Shabbatean movement on the one hand and the power and wealth of the kehillah (all three congregations united in 1639) on the other led to an ever-increasing isolation from the rest of the Jewish world and to a rapprochement with Dutch society.

The turning point was the founding of the famous Esnoga (synagogue), inaugurated in 1675, which subsequently dominated Sephardi community life.

The Ashkenazim.

[17th century: Ashkenazim Jews arriving from Germany, Poland, and Lithuania - forced union since 1673 - places of settlement - some trade and poverty]

Unlike the Sephardim, the Ashkenazim spread throughout the whole Republic of the Netherlands, although their main center was also in Amsterdam. The first Ashkenazim arrived in Amsterdam around 1620, establishing their first congregation in 1635. The first emigration was from Germany but in the second half of the 17th century many Jews also came from Poland and Lithuania: they founded a separate community (1660), but in 1673, after disputes between the two, the municipal authorities ordered it to amalgamate with the German one.

[Growing Jewish community during the 17th and 18th century]

The community grew rapidly, outnumbering the Portuguese in the 17th century though remaining in a subservient position until the end of the 18th century. During the 17th century, the most important communities outside Amsterdam were in Rotterdam and The Hague. At that time Jews also settled in several towns in the provinces bordering Germany: Groningen, Friesland, Overijssel, and Gelderland. In spite of restrictive measures, their number increased in the 18th century, and they extended to a large number of smaller towns. There were a few very rich Ashkenazi families, such as the *Boas (The Hague), the Gomperts (Nijmegen and Amersfoort), and the Cohens (Amersfoort), but the overwhelming majority earned a meager living as peddlers, butchers, and cattle dealers.

In Amsterdam the economic difficulties of the Ashkenazi Jews were even more acute and the poverty among them even greater. Apart from the diamond and book printing industries, very few trades were open to them and the majority engaged in trading in  second-hand goods and foodstuffs. Foreign trade, mainly in money and shares, was concentrated in Germany and Poland. Culturally the Ashkenazi yishuv [[Jewish population]] depended on Germany and Eastern Europe, from where most of their rabbis came. The colloquial language was Yiddish, increasingly mixed with Dutch words.

Contact with the non-Jewish population was superficial, except among the very small upper class which arose in the second half of the 18th century.> (col. 980)

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands,
                          vol. 12, col. 978, Duran: Tashbez, cover page
amplify Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 978, Duran: Tashbez: Title page of Sefer ha-Tashbez, the book of response by Simeon b. Zemah Duran (1361-1444), printed in Amsterdam by Naphtali Herz Levi, 1741. The ornate decoration follows the style set by the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695. Jerusalem, Israel Museum.

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Sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 973-974
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 973-974
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 975-976
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 975-976
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 977-978
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 977-978
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 979-980
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 979-980
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 981-982
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 981-982
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 983-984
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 983-984
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 985-986
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 985-986
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 987-988
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 987-988
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 989-990
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 989-990
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 991-992
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 991-992
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol.
                    12, col. 993-994
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: Netherlands, vol. 12, col. 993-994




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