De Joodse Invalide
Center for Research on Dutch Jewry in Jerusalem
Spanish and Portuguese Jews had already established charitable institutions during the first decade of the seventeenth century. Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe settled in the Netherlands from 1635 and were initially supported by the Portuguese community. Care of the poor was the responsibility of specific parnassim (community leaders). As they were in sole charge of poor relief, the poor were entirely at their mercy. Funds were collected in the synagogue and at festivals. Private charitable organizations also helped alleviate their distress.
In the second half of the eighteenth century the number of charity cases increased, and the situation for poor Jews did not improve in the nineteenth century. Although well-to-do Jews gave ‘zedaka’ (charity), there was hardly any contact between them and the poor.
At the start of the twentieth century Amsterdam had several Jewish institutions taking care of the sick and the elderly. The Nederlands Israelitisch Ziekenhuis (Dutch Jewish Hospital) was founded in 1804. From 1829 it was managed by the Nederlands Israelitisch Armbestuur (Dutch Jewish Society for the Poor) which had been founded in 1825.
In 1833 the Nederlands Israelitisch Oudeliedengesticht (Dutch Israelite Old People’s Home) was established.
The Centraal Israelitische Krankzinnigenverpleging (Central Jewish Care of the Insane) was founded in 1889, and was transferred to Apeldoorn in 1909 when it became the Apeldoornse Bosch.
Although the Jewish institutions functioned well on the whole, there were still ‘forgotten groups’.
The average Jewish support consisted of fifty cents per week, matzes for Pesach (Passover) and peat in the winter. Thanks to the introduction of social legislation and reformed employment conditions the population’s standard of living rose and the situation of the Jews improved as well.
Rabbi Meijer de Hond’s Initiative
One group of Jews which fell between two stools as far as care was concerned, were elderly chronic invalids. Due to lack of space the Nederlands Iraelitisch Ziekenhuis moved them to the Stedelijk Werkhuis, a home for the poor in the Roeterstraat in Amsterdam.
They wore institutional clothing and clogs, and received their kosher meals from the Nederlands Iraelitisch Ziekenhuis. On Shabbat and festivals they could gather in a special room, called the Jewish room. Their situation, also as far as food was concerned, was bad. Men and women, even when married, were kept strictly apart. They could go to the synagogue of the Nederlands Israelitisch Oudeliedengesticht at the Nieuwe Keizersgracht, but they were embarrassed by their "uniforms" and their clogs.
The Torah Or (Teaching is Light) society was informed about their plight. Those who were able to heckle flax or turn firelighters could earn some sugar for their coffee.
Some Jewish dignitaries founded an association which became the Joodse Invalide (Jewish Invalid) in 1911. It was their intention to assist those who were being cared for in the Stedelijk Armenhuis.
The Torah Or society was run by Rabbi Meijer de Hond (1882-1943), the rabbi of the people.
His brochure Een Joods hart klopt aan uw deur, (A Jewish heart knocks at your door) was the impetus for the construction of a separate home for Jewish invalids.
About the people in the Stedelijk Armenhuis Rabbi de Hond wrote: "those in our capital who are physically and morally worn out, who degraded and filthy are turned out of their disgustingly dirty, foul stinking hovels, who are picked up blind drunk from the street, or driven filthy, ill and begging from squares, bridges and canals, find shelter behind this little gate."
Apart from these inhabitants, the Stedelijk Armenhuis also housed men and women who had been toiling away for their whole lives to earn an honest, decent living and who were now compelled to live out their last years under similar circumstances.
The Joodse Invalide, founded – as mentioned above – in 1911, counted 4600 members within a month.
One year later a home was opened at Nieuwe Keizersgracht 70, housing initially ten men and two women. It included a synagogue. The residents enjoyed the Jewish atmosphere of the house which they had been without for so long. The number of candidates grew quickly and in 1919 a second house was acquired, housing 66 elderly invalids.
In the meantime a new chairman, Dr. S.I. Norden, was appointed, and in 1919 I. Gans and I. Brouwer were added to the committee. Medical care was in the hands of S. Premsela, assisted by several specialists. When Dr. Norden died in 1924, he was succeeded by I. Gans. The house flourished under his management. Sister Esther Mok was in charge of nursing for more than 25 years.
A new building
As the waiting list had grown again in the mean time, larger premises were needed. The Joodse Invalide has always been known for its effective publicity and fundraising. They published a monthly magazine, lotteries were held and evenings with popular artists were organized.
Despite the economic crisis of the twenties of the previous century enough capital was raised for a new building at the Nieuwe Achtergracht, which was inaugurated in 1925. Queen Wilhelmina and Queen-Mother Emma paid a visit, and Mayor W. de Vlugt was appointed honorary chairman.
In the thirties the waiting lists grew again. A number of Jewish refugees from Germany were admitted in 1933.
The house on the Weesperplein
Once again more space was needed and funds were collected for a new building on the Weesperplein. They were mostly donated by ordinary people and Jewish diamond workers. Collections were held at weddings, members received collection boxes and there was a lot of advertising.
In 1919 a new building was inaugurated at the Nieuwe Keizersgracht 31.
Both buildings were adapted using the newest techniques for the care of invalids. Occupational therapy was provided, recreation was organised and there was a family atmosphere. The residents did not wear a uniform, though uniforms in the Joodse Oudeliedengeschicht (Jewish Home for the Elderly) were not abolished until 1929. Jewish holidays were celebrated and the residents could look forward to a serene old age. Medical care was also excellent.
In 1921 the decennial jubilee was celebrated. The new building on the Nieuwe Achtergracht was occupied. When it was nearly ready, Queen Wilhelmina paid a visit.
Couples could now live together and a special wing was opened for the blind. There was space for 156 people.
In 1931 the Joodse Invalide celebrated its 20 year existence with the purchase of a piece of land on the Weesperplein. In 1937 the new building, later called the Glazen Paleis (Glass Palace), was inaugurated. Princess Juliana paid a visit in 1938.
The Second World War
At the start of the Second World War more than 400 invalids occupied the house. During the first years they tried to get on with their lives as much as possible, but in March 1943 the Gestapo deported 256 nurses and invalids. Only a few residents and nurses escaped, of whom very few survived the war. During the war the municipality of Amsterdam used the building as a hospital. After the war a memorial was erected in the Glazen Paleis in memory of those who did not return.
In June 1945 the building was handed over to A. van Santen as representative of the former management. New management was installed. Meanwhile the building was used by about 300 repatriates. Financial assistance was offered by Volksherstel, the Joodse Coordinatie Commisie and the Joint (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). Despite this it was no longer possible to maintain the old building but due to the prevailing housing shortage, it was difficult to find another place.
In 1951 they moved to the former hospital of the Portugees Israelitische Gemeente (Portuguese Israelite Community) in the Henri Polaklaan. The inauguration took place in October 1952. The number of residents was 55 persons, but there was room for more than 90.
Solicitor A. Roos who passed away in 1948, bequeathed a legacy for the care of Jewish elderly people. This resulted in the cooperation of Jewish institutions specializing in elderly and invalid care. In 1951 the Stichting Jolin (Foundation for Cooperation of Jewish institutions for the elderly, invalids and chronically ill) came into being. Associated were: Beit Menoechah, the home for the elderly in Amsterdam, Joods Maatschappelijk Werk (Jewish Social Work) and institutions in The Hague, Rotterdam, Arnhem, Enschede and the Joodse Invalide.
Meanwhile the Glazen Paleis was intended for the Gemeentelijke Geneeskundige Gezondheidsdienst (Municipal Medical Health Service) and the new part set up as a hospital.
Due to lack of space in the Henri Polaklaan the ground-floor was acquired in 1953 and in 1956 the other floors were also bought, which meant that it could now house 94 persons, including 17 patients needing partial hospital care.
Considerable assistance was given by Joods Maatschappelijk Werk, Nederlandse instellingen voor Sociale Arbeid and other organizations.
Financial help came from the Claims Conference and the Joint. The Joodse Invalide grew again and many new residents were registered who benefited from activities such as gymnastics, handicraft, painting and drawing. Entertainment evenings were organized and much time was dedicated to occupational therapy and revalidation.
Above all the Joodse Invalide became again a close Jewish family and a safe haven for elderly survivors whose world, in which their nearest relatives had met their deaths in the most gruesome way, had become strange and indescribably lonely.
The first lustrum of the new home was celebrated in 1957 and in 1959 an additional building was purchased in the Henri Polaklaan.
Finally a new home was inaugurated in Osdorp and the Beit Shalom in the Kastelenstraat in Buitenveldert has been in use from 1991 until this day.
Extracted from source:Yael (Lotje) Ben Lev-de Jong
Translated from Dutch:Michael Jamenfeld
End editing:Sara Kirby-Nieweg & Anthony (Tony) Kirby