Amsterdam is one of the best cities to reach by cruise – whether by sea or river, you will dock directly in the heart of the city.
A great spot to begin your exploration of vibrant Jewish Amsterdam is the Jewish Historical Museum. The first room is the former Great Synagogue (Ashkenazi), the original interior has been carefully reconstructed. Another highlight of Jewish Europe is the nearby Portuguese Synagogue. Built in 1672, its high-arched wooden roof is evocative of the vanished wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe, and a larger-than-life statue of Baruch Spinoza can be found next to a large black marble stela remembering the Jewish citizens killed between 1940 and 1945.
In the former Jewish quarter you can visit Rembrandt’s house, see if you can spot the date written as 5648! You will also find a memorial to the dock workers’ strike against the Nazis here. There are innovative memorials marking many of the places where people were deported to Auschwitz via Westerbork, the main one is the Schouwburg, or theatre, used by the Nazis as a deportation prison, after they originally debated using the synagogue. Today its exterior continues to resemble a 19th century theatre, but the inside has been transformed into a powerful space of remembrance, where one does not think of the dead passively, instead using the space to communicate with them through though and feeling.
Where can you find the modern community? They can be found, 15,000 strong, in the neighborhood of Amstelveen, where you can find kosher services along with a Jewish home for the elderly. Nowadays, the quarter is mostly made of post-war apartment blocks, but you can appreciate the feeling that modern-day Judaism is alive and well in the Dutch capital.