Amsterdam is one of the best cities to reach by cruise – whether by sea or river.
Tour Jewish Amsterdam with us, and discover the centuries of tradition behind today’s hip and progressive Dutch capital. Amsterdam strikes a delicate balance between mourning the losses of the past and celebrating the revitalization of the present. The poignant site of Anne Frank’s hiding place in Amsterdam is certainly the most famous destination for Jewish tourism in the Netherlands, and while the new Holocaust museum by star architect Daniel Liebeskind is still in planning Amsterdam holds a wealth of lesser-known fascinating points of interest. From the exquisite Portuguese Synagogue, dating back to 1675, to today’s lively Jewish neighborhood in Amstelveen, let one of our expert guides offer you an unforgettable experience of Jewish Amsterdam.
Perhaps the best place to start exploring Jewish Amsterdam is the lively and colorful Jewish Historical Museum. The first room is the former Great Synagogue (Ashkenazi) in which some guests are inspired to prayer because the original interior has been so carefully reconstructed. A film entitled “Friday Night” tells the story of the pre-war Jewish community. But the crowning achievement of the museum is the children’s section, which feels like a Jewish Community Center. Children bake miniature Challah in a hands-on kitchen. A “talking” brick wall with lips that move and speak, tells the harsh reality of what happened to Amsterdam’s Jewish community.
The nearby Portuguese Synagogue, built in 1675, is definitely a highlight of Jewish Europe. Its high wooden arched roof is reminiscent of all the vanished wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe, and a larger-than-life size statue of Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch philosopher of Portuguese-Jewish descent, can be found next to a large black marble stela remembering the Jewish Resistance.
In the former Jewish quarter, on a house near Rembrandt’s house, you can spot a date written as 5648! There is a memorial to the general solidarity strike against the Nazis in February 1941. Marking many of the places where people were deported to Westerbork transit camp en route to Auschwitz, there are innovative memorials, and the main one is the Hollandsche Schouwburg or theatre, which the Nazis used as a deportation prison after first considering the synagogue. Today its exterior still resembles a 19th century theatre, but inside it is a powerful place of remembrance, where one does not think of the dead passively, but for a moment communicates with them by thought and feeling.
And where is today’s community? It can be found, 15,000 strong, in the modern neighborhood of Amstelveen, where many of the kosher services, such as bakeries, butchers, supermarkets, and restaurants, are provided along with a Jewish home for the elderly. Although the quarter now consists of mostly post-war row apartment blocks, there is still clear evidence of Jewish life there today. Grab a kosher lunch in Amstelveen, where young Jewish teens chat on their phones, where the men walk openly with their Kippas, and where you truly feel that modern-day Judaism is alive and well in the Dutch capital.