The Jewish Cemetery in Overveen
In 1797 a part of the Jewish community in Amsterdam separated from the Amsterdam High German Jewish community. At that time, 21 members of this community renounced their membership with the assistance of Notary Public J.C. Wagner. The so-called ‘Neie Kille’ (New Community) came thus into being. Mr. Izak Graanboom was appointed Chief Rabbi and Leizer ben Mendele Schoucheit was appointed kosher butcher. Services were from then on held in a private house, namely the one of Salomon Cats.
This was a development which had its origin in the formal Emancipation of the year 1796. During the nineties of the 18th century the very first Jewish political society had been formed, of which the name “Felix Libertate” (“fortunately free”) is self-explanatory. Its aims were Jewish-ideological freedom and equality of the citizen. The persons who took the initiative, made use of the advent of the French in 1795 in order to introduce a structural change in the social status of Jewish individuals in Dutch society. This was a political aim that was marked by translating the famous “Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” into Yiddish and reading it aloud in the synagogue. It changed the synagogue of old into the center of bourgeois political propaganda! It was a drastic change in the autonomy of the national-religious structure of Jewish communities. Very soon there appeared the contours of deep conflicts. The ‘New Lights’ collided with the historic communities which fiercely opposed these new ideas and in the end this led to the separation of 1797. In the old kehilloth there was no room for these ‘Aufklaerer, who wanted to equalize the national foundations of the centuries-old communities with all citizens of the Dutch nation; they wanted to break away forever from the untouchable authority of the parnassim who did not belong anymore in this new way of life.
From then on there were two kehiloth, the old one and a ‘neie’/new, mini community, “Adath Jeshurun”, which had no shortage of great figures. These were modern intellectuals, lawyers and businessmen, who did not want anymore to be called Dutch Jews but Jewish Dutchmen. This was about ‘people’ and ‘rights’ of all ‘free and equal humans’. Not religion but citizenship was the main issue. The community had regulations which, however, were written in the Dutch-Jewish jargon because obviously the members of the community still understood this better. The French rulers put an end to this in January 1809.
Thus, conflicts arose and from the chronicles of that time, it was apparent that the separation within the closed community led to fierce emotional explosions. It seems that the leaders of the old community did not encourage restraint. To the contrary, they even encouraged the endless conflicts! The reason for this was the debilitating fury of the parnassim who sensed the advent of changing times. This fury came to be expressed not only in the streets but also by the publishing of leaflets, called ‘Diskoers’ (Discussion) – quite a large collection of these pamphlets were from 1798, mainly in Yiddish. The members of the Portuguese community remained far apart from these discussions. Their attitude with regard to the emancipation was, with some exceptions, expressed in a different way.
These pamphlets did not spare the new rabbi from criticism and he was more or less banned by the old kehilla. Among others, they insinuated that Izak Graanboom, the new Chief Rabbi, preferred money most of all, although he actually lived very modestly in the lower part of the synagogue of the new community in Rapenburger Street and never accepted any presents.
After the establishment of the ‘neie Kille’ religious services were first held in private homes, but on June 23rd, 1797 an official synagogue was inaugurated opposite the Plantage, on the Nieuwe Heerengracht. There also was a mikve, a small conference room and the premises of the Chief Rabbi. Long before 1940 all traces of this building were already gone.
The name of David Friedrichsfeld should be mentioned. He was an enthusiastic disciple of Moses Mendelssohn ; he lived in Amsterdam since 1781 and played an important role in the history of the Emancipation. David Friedrichsfeld became cantor of the new community.
Because no archives are left about this period, it is not easy to get a clear picture of Adath Jesurun. The pre-war literature mainly concentrated on the persona of the Rabbi, who was portrayed by orthodox authors, like Chief Rabbi Maarsen and Dr. D.M. Sluys, as “not very dangerous”.
On May 1st, 1799 the Kehilla moved to Rapenburger Street (No. 173 today). When in 1808 the reunion took place, without any special difficulties, this Synagogue became an ordinary community synagogue, together with the mikve and the butcher shop.
In 1807 Napoleon wanted to convene the so-called Sanhedrin, in the style of the old Jewish court of justice. The intention was to regulate the relationship of the state and the often conflicting Jewish traditions. This could, in fact, be seen as a recognition of Adath Jeshurun by the powers that be. The orthodox factions did not want to have anything to do with the attempts of Napoleon to give equal rights to the Jews, who were citizens of the other countries, and their laws. citizens Research about this was done by J. Michman (Melkman). In the end, only the separate kehilla was represented in Paris.
In this context it should not be forgotten that the end of Adath Jeshurun was already in sight.
The Chief Rabbi Izak Graanboom
This exceptional person was the youngest son of non-Jewish Swedish parents who became Jewish out of pure conviction and who came to live in Amsterdam in 1763, hoping to find there a more liberal, spiritual atmosphere. He himself, a twelve year old boy, and his father were admitted in the Covenant (Brith) of Abraham. Since then the name of the boy was ‘Aaron Mosche Jitschak ben Awraham Awienoe’, son of the Patriarch Abraham. The family called itself Abrahams and only in 1811 after the law of adoptions for family names came into force , did they choose the name of Graanboom, originally from the Swedish Granboom.
From the Hebrew family chronicle, 1858-’59, (parts of which were written by S.I. Mulder and published by L.Fuks) it appears that it was with the Sefardic community where the family converted to Judaism.
In 1789 Izak published an article in the form of a sermon, with explanations of bible texts. This article formed the starting point of Izak’s history.
His life until 1797
According to details he published himself at that time, we know that his parents died soon after their arrival in the Netherlands. Their life had been extremely difficult. He thus was left all alone. Izak met superior scholars who educated him in the spirit of Judaism. He mentioned the names of Rabbi Beer and Jookev Dietz who taught him Talmud and Poskim free of charge. For three years he was taught by Rabbi Beer, until he was admitted to the great Beth Midrash in Amsterdam. At the same time he became a member of the household of the ‘Gaon’, Chief Rabbi Saul Lowenstam (1750-1790), where he learned Tora.
Initially Izak did not want to make his living from the Tora and therefore learned the trade of diamond cleaving. With this he could support himself and his family for about twenty years. Then he got into economic difficulties and around 1780 he was accepted in the teachers’ union of the school. He turned out to be a ‘lamdan’, an authority on Halacha. He thus received the title of More.
Considering the above, one wonders why he was appointed Chief Rabbi of Adath Jeshurun.
Because of his origins, he probably was more lenient than the descendants of the families of the great rabbis from which the Amsterdam communities usually used to recruit their rabbis. Therefore, this man was probably better fitted to comply with the cosmopolitan way of thinking of Adath Jeshurun.
Apparently, he was a somewhat naïve, dreamy man who cultivated Judaism, an idealist who thought he would be useful in his new working environment. It was not necessarily his fault that he did not succeed. His intentions to influence the Jewish spirit of Adath Jeshurun positively ended in disappointment. The rabbinate barely lasted a decade. The Neie Kille lasted a bit longer. Rabbi Jitzchak died on March 10th, 1807, a short while before the revolutionary community again jointed the great Kehilla. He was buried in Overveen.
Subsequent efforts by his son to rehabilitate his father, reflected the course of the life of a spiritual leader, somewhat frustrated by the circumstances, who was as well a somewhat irresolute man who, during a decade, went stooped under a self-chosen yoke. He must have suffered from the opposition that his act had caused in 1797. It did not help that he rescinded the title of Moreh and that purposely he did not want to be called ‘Av Beth Hadin’ (Chief Rabbi – Literally ‘father/president of the Court of Justice). He was satisfied with the simple title of More Tsedek (fair teacher).
There are only three tombstones left in the oldest part of the cemetery. The question arises, therefore, whether stones have sunk into the ground or whether perhaps this is a result of vandalism. This is not a superfluous question as the tombstone of the Chief Rabbi has been a target of destruction several times.
His demise had also been announced abroad. Three leading members of the Neie Kille resided in Paris at that time as members of the Sanhedrin organized by Napoleon. The Great Assembly of Bonaparte led to the establishment of the first Jewish newspaper published in the Dutch language. The death of Izak Graanboom was mentioned in this newspaper. There also appeared an elaborate description of the ceremony of grief held at this Sanhedrin meeting. In the notes of February 1808- a year after his death- a funereal ceremony was recorded, stating that a funereal speech would be held, as well as “Reading a Mass for the Soul”. Later this curious ‘Mass for the Soul’ was changed into a ‘Prayer for the Soul’. The evolution from the ‘Yiskor’ of old to ‘Mass’ was characteristic for the atmosphere of those times. It all was was done with good intentions. In 1797 Izak Graanboom himself had sanctioned the secession, a historical deed the importance of which cannot be underestimated. His sanction was covered by rabbinical authority which notwithstanding outside criticism, was based on wide knowledge and an independent character. The Rabbi was a man whose scholarship was certainly not less than that of the famous Rabbis of Amsterdam.
The organizational talents of Messrs. Asser and De Lemon made it possible to take steps to buy a cemetery very soon after the breach by the ‘enlightened’ with the old community in March 1797, in April of that same year. As the official lists of those who have died and were buried in Overveen have been preserved, we know exactly who was buried there between October 15th, 1797 and December 30th, 1808. Exactly 100 members of Adath Jeshurun. The Beth Chaim remained in use until 1808, a period of about 10 years during which not many people were buried because of the small number of community members. During the year 1805 many graves were destroyed in the cemetery and therefore a wall was built around it as well as a small ‘metaher’ house, a well and a pump. The southern wall contains several epigraphs, among them the Hebrew text from Job 3:19:
‘The small and the tall is there and the servant is there, free from his master’.
In 1900 a letter was written to the church council of the NIHS by A.J. Waal Malefijt, probably a descendant of the person, who had first signed the deed of purchase of the cemetery, about 100 years earlier. In this letter he informed the church council , that use of the land near the cemetery would, for many reasons, probably increase the risk of disturbance of the peace as well as of material damage. This land could be used as a playground for the youths of Haarlem. He offered to buy the land from the NIHS, to plant the area with trees and thus to prevent more damage. There was no reaction to this letter and the consequences did not fail to occur. As far as we know, damage to the cemetery wall continued and we can read about the vandalism to the matseva (tombstone) of Izak Graanboom.
In 1903 the front wall was renewed after the cap of sand stone collapsed and the entrance gate was refurbished as well.
During the thirties of the previous century several parcels of land around the cemetery were sold.
Between 1930 and 1940 seven Jews were buried in the cemetery at Overveen of whom two were descendants of Izak Graanboom. During the second world war there were two funerals. The continued existence of the cemetery became a point of friction with the national- socialists. Correspondence concerning this subject is kept in the archives of the community of Bloemendaal. “They” wanted to declare the cemetery “closed”, but some officials in their succeeded in preventing this. Thus, the general manager of the Public Works, Mr. J. de Jong, wrote the following letter to the real estate agent who offered the land for sale:
“The cemetery belongs to the Neth. Isr. Main Synagogue in Amsterdam. It is situated along the Tetterode Road, is referred to in the Land Registry under Section E no.’s 931 and 932 and has a surface of 3306 M2.
Tetterode Road does not comply with art. 10 of the building regulations, therefore, according to art. 28, one is not allowed to build on this land and thus it cannot be considered to be a building site.
As one can give a cemetery a different purpose only after it has been officially closed for 30 years, this lot has neither value as a building site nor as walking trail and I advise you to forego the purchase hereof.”
In July 1944 the Mayor decided not to make use of the offer. A year later the Netherlands were liberated.
Only in 1948 there again occurred a funeral in Overveen.
The Jewish community in Amsterdam refurbished the Metaher house ( purification house) and took the initiative to restore some tombstones. The community of Bloemendaal looked after payment for the mowing and arranged for a beautiful wrought iron fence.
Actually this cemetery in the dunes had already become history during the year of 1808. Since that time it was a ‘Beth Chaim’ where individuals with very special sentiments wanted and still want to be buried: like the next of kin and other descendants of members of the Neie Kille.
After the war six funerals took place here – between 1952 and 1964.
Because of the exceptional way it came into existence, this cemetery has become Historical National Monument.
The Tomb of Chief Rabbi Izak Graanboom
In the summer of 1807 the wish was expressed to establish a monument on the tomb of the Chief Rabbi. On July 30th a concrete plan was formed. During the whole summer this occupied many people and the final result became visible on September 17th. Underneath is the translation of the text on this monument:
“Zera Yitzhak (seed of Isaac)
This is the stone on the tomb of our Master, Teacher and Rabbi. Chief Rabbi and Head of the School of our Community, whose name was known in Israel by the title DE GAON (the scholar), DE TSADDIEK (the righteous),DE CHASID (the religious), Rav Aharon Moshe Jitschak ben Abraham, shepherd of the flock ADATH JESHURUN.
He shook off pride and arrogance. His behavior was of a withdrawn nature. Only for his religion did he make a strong stand, in order to show his people God’s way, where light shines in order to make their hearts always fear God, teach them MUSAR (ethics).
Thus, he was a witness under Jacob and established the Tora among Israel.
May this monument cover his physical remains, his love remains anchored in our heart, may his sun shine forever in ZERA (the seed of )JITSCHAK and the light of his wisdom and his knowledge.
You, human being, passer-by: stop and let your eye shed a tear, because the glory of Israel has been thrown into the earth. Ahh! To the body formed in God’s image, the Lord says: ‘Rest in darkness’.
A CHASID has disappeared from this earth and is not present anymore because God has taken him towards him to show him heavenly love – where he can always visit His Sanctuary.
He entered eternal life on Tuesday, the first day of ROSH HODESH ADAR SHENI (the New Moon Holiday of the second month of Adar, as that year was a leap year with 13 months) and was buried the following Thursday of the year 5567 (1807).”
In the course of the years the tombstone has been vandalized many times. In the beginning it was repaired but now it lies in broken pieces.
People occupied themselves for a long time with the maintenance of the cemetery, among others with the building of a stone wall. In the beginning of the 20th century it had deteriorated to such an extent that 2/3 had to be renewed.
Of the five children of Rabbi Graanboom only one, Israel, is buried in Overveen. In the course of time five other persons with name Graanboom were buried in Overveen, amongst them the grandchild of the Chief Rabbi. The wife of the Chief Rabbi, Rachel/Ruchama (de) Wolf, was not buried next to her husband, neither the wife of the prominent member Moses Asser.
Above mentioned possibility to be buried in Overveen also after the union, was used much less than could be expected, probably because of financial considerations. Moreover, the total Adath Jeshurun period lasted only a little more than 10 years and there were not many members. From the time of the reunion of the two communities and onwards only members (Balbatim) were buried there (according to S.I. Mulder in 1851).
Between January 1809 and 1940 a total of 113 persons found their final resting place in Overveen, between 1940 and 1964 about ten.
There are no exact details about social events in the community between 1797 and 1808. From a letter of July 22nd 1808 it is apparent that the kehilla was not large, just before the reunion: ‘….Though from (1802), somehow various Jews from the Old Community united with the New Community, but they became rather less than more…/drieluik’
In ‘Demography of the Jews in The Netherlands’ by E. Boekman in the first census of 1795 Adath Jeschurun did not yet exist and in a later report of 1808 the community had already disappeared. Another report somewhat later suggests that they were one-sixtieth of a total of 30,000 persons in the Ashkanazi community, which would amount to 500 persons.
The Asser family played a leading role in achieving civil equal rights for the Jews. Cited below is an act of the adoption of a family name, certified by Mr. J. Huydecoper of Maarsseveen by Moses Salomon (1754-1826), the undisputed champion of Emancipation:
‘Before me the undersigned member of the provisional management of the city of Amsterdam appeared: Moses Salomon Asser, residing at Heeregracht near Utrechtsche street no. 15 canton 3, who declared that he keeps or if need be, accepts the family name of Asser and first names of Moses Salomon, that he has three sons, three grandsons and one granddaughter, to wit:
Carel Asser age thirty three, residing on Prinsegragt above the Stads Timmertuin no. Canton1 –married to Rose Levin out of which marriage was begotten Lodewijk Asser, age eleven.
Asser Tobie age thirty, residing at his father’s home, married to Carolina Itzig from which marriagewere begotten Anna Gratia Mariana Asser, age six, Eduard Isaac Asser, age four, Karel Daniel Asser, age fifteen weeks.
Hendrik Asser age twenty four, residing on Rokin near the Bourse no. canton 2.
They will keep the above mentioned first names, being this document signed the sixteenth December, 1800, by the above mentioned person as stated and myself.
M.S. Asser Huydecoper van Maarsseveen’
However, on his tombstone Moses Asser is mentioned as Mousje Ben Kalman Sjouchet (Sjouchet = butcher).
It is remarkable that on the tombstones of Abraham Carel Wertheim and his wife (second half of the nineteenth century) next to him,there are almost no Hebrew letters. It is questionable whether the Chief Rabbi in those days, Dr. Dunner, was at peace with this. From the text on his tomb it appears that he was an important individual: chairman of the Church Council of the Netherlands Israelite Main Synagogue, Member of the Upper House and Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion. However, his children, who died young, had an almost complete Hebrew text on their tombstones.
He was a man, who, because of his dualistic views of Judaism, was still quoted until 1940. He was a citizen in society and a Jew in the synagogue.
The Second World War had broken out. On January 3rd, 1939 the lawyer, Mr. Dr. Lodewijk Ernst Visser was appointed President of the Supreme Court. However, already in November 1940 he was dismissed by the Germans. Thus began the most important part of the life of this fierce fighter guided by principles, who vigorously resisted the Nazis and their supporters on various fronts . In the relatively short period before his death in February 1942 he stood out as the irresistible defender of the rights of his fellow Jews and with whom he felt in unity during this time of oppression. He took part in the resistance against the occupiers and disputed fiercely with the civil service in The Hague. Furthermore, internally he fiercely opposed the Jewish Council (Joodse Raad). His wife, Cornelia Johanna Sara initially stood fearlessly at the side of her husband. She eventually ended up in Westerbork together with the group of the Barneveld-list in September 1943, where she died and was cremated in March 1944. Her urn was placed next to the tomb of her husband and her daughter in Overveen. On her tomb is mentioned the death of their son in Mauthausen .
On about one third of the matsevoth (tombstones) in Overveen appear illustrations, unusual in Jewish circles; this being one of the aspects of the period of the Emancipation. On the tomb of Moses Asser we find the Dutch lion, which also appeared on his signet ring. Moses Asser thus had a family coat of arms, the first Jewish Dutchman who had been endowed with this. This decoration appears also on an image of waves; probably a symbol of the sea and a reminiscence of the fact that the erstwhile businessman once was a sea- and insurance broker. (His son Carel received his doctoral degree in 1799 in Leiden with a dissertation on maritime law).
Another ‘decorated’ tombstone was the o
ne of Samuel Joel, one of the parnassim. On this stone there was a knotted tree.
A faded past
Already for a long time the archives of Adath Jeshurun do not exist anymore. Not only because during the time a lot of material was sacrified to the fireplaces of schoolrooms and to paper mills, but also as a victim of the course of the general history of Dutch Judaism. All this in spite of the regulation, article 20 in the “plan of agreement and unification” of 1808: ‘Parnassim of the United Community, both of the Old and the New Community, will take over all minutes/records, archives, charters, documents, marriage certificates, registers of birth and death lists, and anything else – to take care of these and to hand over a copy of these to anyone interested against a reasonable fee’.
The secretary of the Netherlands Israelite Main Synagogue, Dr. D.M.Sluys, concluded in his study ‘The regulations of Adath Jeschurun’ : “The regulations, together with the clauses/stipulations themselves, disappeared from the vigilant eyes of caretaker Bendit Plotske, who sold the archives of the New Community for waste paper around 1826.
Nevertheless a ‘Minutes book of the Directors’ was still available in the archives of the NIHS until 1940.
“Versteend verleden”/Petrified Past, Jaap Meijer / Jet Slagter
Haarlem : De Vrieseborch, c1983.
Serie Haarlemse miniaturen ; d. 2.
ISBN: 9060761790 - 9789060761793
Extracted from the source:Yael Benlev-de Jong
Translation into English:Nina Mayer
Final review:Hanneke Noach
|The Jewish Cemetery in Overveen (Near Haarlem)|
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