In the heart of what was once Amsterdam's thriving Jewish Quarter , this museum occupies a restored Ashkenazi synagogue complex. This cluster of four former synagogues -- the Grote Synagoge (1671), Obbene Sjoel (1685), Dritt Sjoel (1700-1778), and Nieuwe Synagoge (1752) -- survived the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam during World War II more or less intact. They were sold to the city in 1955, and stood unused and in great need of repair for many years. In 1987, they became home to a collection of paintings and decorative ceremonial objects, including magnificent gold and silver ritual vessels. Through these objects, along with photographs, artworks -- including paintings by Amsterdam artist Jozef Israëls (1824-1911) -- interactive displays, and a study room with a library of books, the museum tells the intertwining stories of Jewish identity, Jewish religion and culture, and Jewish history in the Netherlands. Extended in 2006, it provides insights into the Jewish way of life over the centuries, incorporating both good times and bad. Leave time to appreciate the beauty and size of the buildings themselves, which include Europe's oldest public synagogue. This is a museum for everyone, Jewish or otherwise, and there are frequent temporary exhibits of international interest.
Tip: The museum cafe is a great place to have a cup of coffee and a pastry, or a light kosher meal. It's quiet, inexpensive, and the food is good. You don't need to visit the museum to dine at the cafe.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Recommended 2009
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