In my view, the Jewish Historical Museum is one of the most exceptional museums Amsterdam has to offer. Even though the museum is not large, both the collection and its accompanying stories always affect me deeply. I also find the constant police surveillance guarding the various Jewish museums and synagogues of this area very confronting. Unfortunately, this surveillance is necessary, but I think it also proves just how incredibly important museums such as the Jewish Historical Museum are. Not only for our generation, but also for the next.
Old Jewish Quarter
The museum is housed inside 4 former synagogues in the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam and envelops the history of Judaism and the local Jewish community in Amsterdam. During the Golden Age, many Jews settled in the city. Most of them came from Portugal and Central and Eastern Europe, bringing with them their culture, faith and knowledge to the liberal heart of Amsterdam.
The museum’s permanent exhibition shows how this population grew and dwindled from the first settlers in Amsterdam, where they successfully made themselves an important part of trade and the diamond sector, up to the Second World War. You are shown what has changed for the Jews, and how they live today. This is an extremely impressive collection and you will be given huge insights into the life, culture, faith and traditions of the Jewish community. The museum is highly interactive and uses various media types.
Everyone knows, of course, what happened to the Jews during World War II. To feel yourself enveloped by the exhibits and stories is extremely intense. Despite this difficult past, the museum does not solely concentrate on this dark chapter of Jewish history. I think it is wonderful that the museum has also placed great emphasis on the Jewish way of life, incorporating a wide range of exhibits.
The Jewish Historical Museum is not only suitable for adults, as a special children’s museum has been open to the public for a number of years. Here, children can get acquainted with Jewish cuisine by cooking traditional dishes, they can learn to play typical Jewish music, familiarise themselves with Hebrew scriptures and interact in all sorts of traditional Jewish practices.
The children’s museum also organises regular workshops which introduce the younger public to Jewish culture and traditions. Highly recommended; I have seen how much children enjoy themselves here.
Both museums can be found at the Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, 1011 PL Amsterdam
The best way to get to the Jewish Historical Museum is by metro or tram. The Waterlooplein stop is within walking distance. There is also parking at the Waterlooplein, but like all other car parks in Amsterdam, it is very expensive.
A Jewish Museum in Amsterdam!? Now that’s something worth looking for.