I spent most of Sunday exploring Jewish Amsterdam. Somehow, a Jewish community did survive the Shoah, and there are a number of Jewish cultural sites. But, of course, it is quite different from before the Shoah.
I started at the Joods Historisch Museum, which is in the “heart of the former Jewish quarter of Amsterdam”, housed in “what used to be four Ashkenazi synagogues”. (Quoted phrases are from the museum’s brochure; their website is worth visiting even if you can visit the museum in person.)
The Museum doesn’t focus on the Shoah — it doesn’t ignore it (that would be impossible), but its main goal is to show the religion, culture, and history of Jews in the Netherlands, past and present. And it does a good job; I spent well over an hour in the museum. I happened to be there while a group of Jewish students from London were being given a tour, and they were certainly paying attention the whole time. But there isn’t much emphasis on the future at the museum.
The Portuguese Synagogue, across the street, on the other hand, is a going proposition. They, too, barely survived the Shoah, but they are determined to continue as an active congregation (preserving Sephardic traditions, as contrasted with the Ashkenazi practices that most modern American and European Jews are familiar with). Their website is also worth a visit.
Pictures coming later….watch this space!