The mystery of Amsterdam’s Jewish community

11.12.2011                      15.Kislev. 5772

Feature:

The mystery of Amsterdam's Jewish community

The discovery of two rare 18th-century books from Amsterdam's Jewish community has left archivist Stefan Litt looking for answers.

Friday June 3, 1768, was an exciting day in the sizable Jewish community of Amsterdam. That day, the Stadtholder (chief executive) of Holland, William V of the House of Orange, arrived for a rare visit to the Jewish quarter and the synagogue, accompanied by his wife, Wilhelmina of Prussia. "Their Highnesses sat on the bench of the community elders, the other ministers and dignitaries were seated on two velvet benches on the north and south sides of the synagogue. As they entered the synagogue, the Holy Ark was opened, the cantors and vocalists had begun to sing 'Baruch Haba' [Welcome]" – this is how the event was described in the community registry.
Stefan Litt, an archivist at the National Library in Jerusalem, found this description in the course of his research into the registries of the Ashkenazi communities (pinkassei kahal ) in the 17th and 18th centuries. The registry goes on to note that a community elder, Gumpel Klev, bestowed on the royal couple a keepsake from the community: "Two books printed on white satin, the cover pages beautifully ornamented with their insignia."…