Netherland Trip Jewish Sites
My friends Serve and Armanda and their daughter Eva took me to see some sites that they knew would interest me. What we saw were remains of what once were the Jewish communities of the small towns of this region, Limburg. It was exciting to see familiar Hebrew writing and signs of a Jewish life that once was but now is gone. It was sad to realize the fate of most of the members of these communities.
Maastrict, once a major center of Jewish life.
We visited the town of Meerssen. There is no longer a Jewish community here but ironically there is an active shul, (synagogue). The shul is used for educational and ceremonial purposes and contains a small museum to the members that once prayed there.
"For Jews forbidden"
Serve's mother recognized the patch and said, "My mother wore one of those during the war!"
The synagogue in Meerssen
Moshe and Serve, two Jews visiting the old shul
Serve explained to me that when the shul was built, around 350 years ago, the rule was that Jewish houses of prayer (shuls) had to be built in a way that was not offensive to the gentiles. Therefore this shul was built behind a row of houses. In the top photo you can see a hint of the houses on each side but the area in front of the shul is now an open plaza. After the destruction of European Jewry (the Holocaust)it was decided to remove one of the houses so that now the old synagogue can be seen by the public. Only now there are no Jews left.
Synagogeplantsoen - Synagogue Place, the street of the synagogue.
Hebrew prayer for the protection of the queen of the Netherlands
It was a full crowd in the synagogue for Memorial Day for victims of the Nazi Occupation, only four of the people in the synagogue were Jews (including myself), the rest were Friends of Jews.
This kind gentleman is the former mayor of the town, now he is the Shamash, or caretaker, of the old Jewish Synagogue.
In 1715, a Jewish cemetery was established at Geulbrugge on the road from Meerssen to Rothem.
In the front row is Jacob Soesman. Soesman, or Susman, is usually the name of a Cohen, and is thus buried in the front row so that his Cohen relatives can visit him without having to enter a cemetery.
Under the wartime German occupation of the Netherlands, almost all the remaining Jews of Meerssen were deported and murdered; only a few managed to escape death in hiding. The synagogue came through the war undamaged despite the theft of part of its contents.
When we arrived at the synagogue in Maastricht it was locked. We found a neighbor who told us that under the synagogue lived gentile caretaker, he would let us in. He did not. He said he was under strict orders not to let any strangers in. (despite the fact that I look clearly Jewish). We found the home of the rabbi and met his wife and kids. She called the caretaker but he still refused to let us in. She kindly let us in.
The shul operates only on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. After the war any surviving Jews from the surrounding communities gathered here in Maastricht.
The synagogue, built 1840.
The old neighborhood where Jews lived.
Jodenstraat - Jews Street, the street where Jews were required to live according to Dutch law. Meyer and Meyer is still in business and quite popular these days.
From June, 1942 through April, 1943 the majority of the Jews of Maastricht were apprehended, deported, and subsequently murdered.
In 1998 the official Jewish population of this region was 61.
Yaakov Shapiro has served as rabbi of the community since 2001.
Monument to the Jews who once lived in this area.
See also photos from Camp Vucht
Netherlands Trip 2011