Norway forbade non-Christians from residence as early as 1000 CE, and only in the late 16th century do official documents reference the presence of Jews in Norway at all. Referenced in these pages as "Portuguese Jews," the term referred to Sephardim from Spain as well as Portugal who had been expelled from their home countries in 1492 and 1497, respectively.
The first Jewish community in Norway was established in present-day Oslo in 1892, then known as Christiania. Then, 136 of the country's 214 Jewish residents lived there. Though most community members were not particularly observant of Halachic laws, they agreed to keep to the Orthodox tradition. The Norwegian-Jewish population continued to grow, bolstered by the influx of Eastern European refugees during WWI. Jewish life blossomed in Oslo in particular; numerous theatre groups, choirs, cultural organizations, and academic organizations were founded, some of which conducted in proceedings in Yiddish.
This era of growth would end in 1940 when Germany occupied Norway. In the next few years, nearly all Jews were either deported to death camps or fled to Sweden. By war's end, the total Norwegian-Jewish population had shrunk from 2,173 to 559. After the war, the community managed to re-assert and re-establish itself: they found their synagogue – which had been put to use as a storage facility for Nazi literature and confiscated Jewish belongings – miraculously unharmed.
Oslo has now become the home to a sort of religious revival. Many institutions and programs have been established: a kindergarten, religious education classes for school children, a home for the elderly, a supply of imported Kosher food products, study circles, and more. With 950 members, you can find both the oldest and largest Jewish community in Oslo, explore it all with your Milk & Honey Tours guide!