Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Amsterdam Jewish Quarter: Portuguese Synagogue

The building that defined the Jewish Quarter for centuries was the very large, blocky Portuguese Synagogue.  The design was based on the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.  It was built in 1670-5, and amazingly enough lasted through the centuries and the second world war intact.*  And we were able to go inside and look around.  I think it was the first temple I've ever been in.

*The building had already been given protected status by the city before the German invasion, which helped a bit, and during the occupation evidently the Gentile fire fighters who lived in the area were watching out for the synagogue.

Why Portuguese?  The Spanish Inquisition in the late 1400's forced the Jews living in Spain and Portugal to either convert, or leave.  Amsterdam was the ultimate settling place for a lot of them, almost a century later.  And as the Dutch were at war with the Spanish, all the immigrants called themselves Portuguese.


The Ark that houses the Torah scrolls.

In every synagogue there's a deliberate imperfection in
memory of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem .
Here it's a gouge in the beam next to the top of the column.

The women's galleries.  In all orthodox
synagogues, the women sit apart.


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