The Historical Sanctuary of Amsterdam’s Jews

The wooden ceilings soar overhead at Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, while below your feet lies a light dusting of sand, traditionally used in Dutch buildings of the 17th century to ward off the moisture left by the rain which is never far off in the Netherlands.

The smell of sawdust hits you when you enter the “Esnoga,” built in 1675 to house Amsterdam’s Kahal Kadosh Talmud Torah Congregation with seating for 1,200 men and 400 women.

The Esnoga is a national landmark of the Netherlands that reopened in December following lengthy renovations. The synagogue boasts a massive ark made out of solid Brazilian jacaranda wood (a tropical wood that was quite expensive at the time) and lined with 17th-century gold leather. In a nod to authenticity, the synagogue has no internal electric lighting system and is lit by candles on dozens of brass holders throughout the main hall.


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