Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam)

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Portuguese Synagogue
EsnogaAmsterdam.jpg
Exterior of the Portuguese Synagogue.
Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam) is located in Amsterdam
Portuguese Synagogue (Amsterdam)
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Location within Amsterdam
Basic information
Location Netherlands Amsterdam, Netherlands
Geographic coordinates 52°22′03″N 4°54′19″E / 52.3675°N 4.9054°E / 52.3675; 4.9054Coordinates: 52°22′03″N 4°54′19″E / 52.3675°N 4.9054°E / 52.3675; 4.9054
Affiliation Orthodox Judaism
Rite Sephardi
Status Active
Website portugesegemeente.nl
Architectural description
Architect(s) Elias Bouwman
Architectural type Synagogue
Groundbreaking April 17, 1671
Completed August 2, 1675
Painting of the interior of the Esnoga by Emanuel de Witte (c. 1680)

The Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga (Ladino: אסנוגה), or Snoge, is a 17th-century Sephardic synagogue in Amsterdam. Esnoga is the Ladino word for synagogue. The Amsterdam Sephardic community was one of the largest and richest in Europe during the Dutch Golden Age, and their very large synagogue reflected this. The description in a speech in January 2012 by Israeli Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as "one of the most beautiful synagogues I have ever seen" reflects a very common view, and the synagogue is a popular tourist attraction.

Background[edit]

The Jews were expelled en masse from Spain in 1492 by the Alhambra decree. Many who fled to Portugal were forced to convert to Catholicism in 1496, while the other Jews were expelled from Portugal in 1497. For hundreds of years, the Inquisition continued to investigate the converts and their descendants on suspicions that in secret they still practiced Judaism (see Crypto-Judaism, Marrano).

Some of those who wished to enjoy a freedom of religion found refuge in Amsterdam. During a substantial migration that took place in the 17th century, these Jewish refugees from the Iberian peninsula called themselves Portuguese Jews to avoid being identified with Spain, which was at war with the Dutch Republic at the time (see Eighty Years' War).

Construction and building[edit]

On December 12, 1670, the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam acquired the site to build a synagogue and construction work began on April 17, 1671, under the architect Elias Bouwman. On August 2, 1675, the Esnoga was finished.

The inscription above the entrance is from Psalm 5:8: "In the abundance of Thy lovingkindness will I come into Thy house". The sign also contains "1672", the year the building was supposed to have been ready, and "Aboab", the name of the chief rabbi whose initiative it was to build the synagogue.

The building is free-standing and rests on wooden poles and the foundation vaults can be viewed by boat from the water underneath the synagogue. The entrance to the main synagogue is off a small courtyard enclosed by low buildings housing the winter synagogue, offices and archives, homes of various officials, the rabbinate, a mortuary and famous Etz Hayim library. The interior of the synagogue is a single very high rectangular space retaining its original wooden benches. The floor is covered with fine sand, in the old Dutch tradition, to absorb dust, moisture and dirt from shoes and to muffle the noise. It is the only synagogue not in the Caribbean to have a sand floor, and is one of only five synagogues with a sand floor.

During the 1955–1959 renovation, the former Etz Hayim seminary auditorium was redesigned as a winter synagogue with central heating and electric lighting. The benches were taken from a synagogue originally built in 1639 and the Hechal dates from 1744.

It was from this synagogue community that Baruch Spinoza was famously expelled for his writings.

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]