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  • The Jewish communities of Lochem

    S. Laansma, De Joodse gemeente te Borculo
    (Borculo, Eibergen, Groenlo, Lochem, Neede, Ruurlo).
    H. Kooger, Het oude Volk-Kroniek van Joods leven in de Achterhoek, Liemers en het grensgebied.

    The first Jews in Lochem were money lenders. During the middle ages Jewish money lenders had connections with many courts. Their life was not easy and they fulfilled their profession under difficult circumstances. Sometimes loans were not returned, or interest was not paid and anti-Semitism always played a role in their professional and private lives.
    The aristocracy was always in need of money for their warfare, or for other purposes.
    Since 1332 the Jew Godschalk from Recklinghausen lived in Lochem. He was a known money lender whose name appears in many documents. As from 1346 Godschalk worked together with another Jew, Leo de Monasterio - from Munster –who appears in documents from 1349.

    According to a document from December 1346 there were three Jews in Lochem in that year. In 1347 their number had already grown to six, and in November of the same year we find: "Godschalk from Recklinghausen and his group of Jews." In 1348 a further name, Moyses de Colonia, (Ko¨ln), appears.
    Afterwards the infamous pest epidemic broke out, of which the Jews were accused. Many Jews fled the stricken countries, many were murdered. After the epidemic the aforementioned Jews are not mentioned anymore. It is strange that no mention of these Jews appears in any document found in Lochem, describing their connections with the town.

    The pawnshop of Lochem
    In 1710 the butcher Joseph Jacob Levi, "the Jew from Bredevoort," received permission to live in Lochem. As yet there was no official pawnshop in Lochem, but an unofficial pawnshop was managed by Joseph Jacob Levi, who promised to "assist people in trouble with one stuiver (5 cent) against a fitting pawn."
    The owner, known as Joseph did not even pay his yearly tribute of six guilders. In 1712 he complained that his possessions had been confiscated and that he was unable to pay the tribute, as he could not fulfill his profession.
    A few years later Joseph repaired the windows of the town hall, but did not receive any payment; since he had not paid the tribute the amount was set off and the account balanced.
    The pawnshop remained in the hands of this family till 1768; it remained in Jewish hands, till its closure in 1828.

    The Jewish population of Lochem
    After Joseph Jacob Levi other Jewish citizens came to the town. Usually they were merchants, but there were also butchers, cattle traders and later on a Jewish veterinarian. About 1899 there was a Jewish obstetrician and also a manufacturer of mops and sack material.
    In 1897 an incident occurred at the fire-brigade. The chief bell ringer was removed from office and degraded to duct keeper, as a result of anti- Semitic utterances against the Jewish firemen who had lodged a complaint in the matter.
    At the start of the 19th century there was already a well-defined Jewish community with regulations and clear stipulations, which maintained very good relations with the Lochem community.
    Family names were: van Gelder, Vredenburg, Fortuin, Eerlijk, Vromen, Roos and Heilbron.

    The synagogue
    In April 1785 several Jewish inhabitants lodged a petition with the city government, regarding the acquisition of a house or a room on the "hoogen straatjen," for prayer services, which till now had been held in private homes. The city government had no objection against this request, since the Jews always paid their tribute. They were allowed to acquire a house or a room, on condition that no inconvenience would be caused.
    There were clear rules for conduct in the synagogue and a heavy fine of three guilders could be imposed in case of misbehavior. As from 1786 everybody had his own place in the synagogue. There was one troublesome member of the kehilla, who disturbed the order from time to time.
    And so, a small synagogue with a women gallery existed. Around 1860 the synagogue became too small for the more than hundred members of the Jewish community of Lochem, which also included some people from neighboring Laren.
    The state promised help for the building a new synagogue. The first stone of the new synagogue was laid on 4 May 1865. The mayor and councilors of Lochem were present, together with other non-Jewish citizens who had also contributed to the new building.
    On the 20th October 1865 the new synagogue was solemnly and festively inaugurated. A cantor from The Hague, a choir and an orchestra added to the festivity.
    In the same year the community planned to install a mikve in the building of the old synagogue; it is not clear when this plan was realized.
    During the years festivities were organized in the shul, providing the opportunity to donate presents. A new Torah roll, a velvet parochet, a silver Torah shield with inscription, a Torah mantle and a silver kiddush cup. In 1915 the fifty year jubilee of the synagogue was celebrated; the community now amounted to 140 members.
    On Shabbat and chagim (holydays) people went three times to the synagogue. On the chagim the prayers were longer than on a regular Shabbat.
    About 1900 there often stood a lonely person in a far-away corner of the synagogue, usually a Jew from Poland or Russia, who fled from the pogroms to the Achterhoek. Those were beggars who were invited for the Shabbat meal.
    Finally the building, which remained undamaged during the war, was sold in 1950 to the Lochem municipality. Since 1974 the building served as a scientific library, Biblioteca Antiquaria, and from 1978 it was not used at all. In 1993 the building was restored as a synagogue and served a cultural function.

    Jewish education
    We do not know when a special classroom was opened for Jewish schooling. This probably occurred after 1812 as part of the old synagogue in the "Hoogestraatje."
    One of the first Jewish teachers was also a porter. Several Jewish teachers who came afterwards were also cantors and butchers.
    When after 1860 the new synagogue was planned, the idea was to use the old synagogue for Jewish instruction, since the existing school had become much too small. About 1862 there were not enough study books, but the teacher knew how to give the children the necessary knowledge. In 1880 there was a teacher who took his pupils every year to the playground in Harfsen. There was another teacher, Mr. Keizer, who took the children on excursions. He taught for a long period, from 1889 till 1930.
    After him came Mr. Elburg, teacher and cantor. Part of his teaching schedule was as follows:
    First class: 3.5 hours per week; reading and history.
    Second class: 3.5 hours per week; translation.
    Third and fourth class: 5 hours per week; history, the Pentateuch, and laajnen.
    After the war Jewish lessons were stopped. The old school building was sold in 1949 and after some time it was torn down.

    The cemetery
    On both sides of the old synagogue in the Hoogestraatje there was a cemetery, which was quite unusual. When this cemetery became too small the Jewish community acquired a parcel of forest land in the Enk near the road to Zutphen, on higher ground. The cemetery was fenced off. The old cemetery was closed; the tomb stones were left in place and disappeared during the war. The new cemetery, in use since 1830, has been maintained by the Lochem municipality since 1950. There are now 109 tomb stones.

    The title of the Lochem regulations from 1785 reads: "Regulations of the Jewish nation in Lochem." One would surmise that the Jews of Lochem were regarded as strangers, but they maintained very good relations with the inhabitants of Lochem. Till 1808 all Jewish communities were named: "The Jewish nation."
    The regulations were intended for married and unmarried people and for lodgers. Everybody had to behave in an orderly way, or they would be fined. The regulations of Amsterdam served as a model.
    The regulations handled amongst others, subjects like: The care for the poor, the participation in prayers at the synagogue and the behavior there, the care for the ill and dying, correct accounting, the marriage blessing ceremony and Jewish schooling.

    Lochem had several societies: Talmud Torah and Gemilus Hasodim, founded about 1890, were men's societies for the study of Torah and Talmud and assistance for the poor and ill.
    Then there were two women societies: Bigdei Koudesh and Hewras Noshim, which were responsible for the belongings of the synagogue.
    There also was a club of youngsters, not mentioned anymore after 1913.

    Hereunder some numbers:
    Jewish population

    Extracted from sources:Yael Benlev-de Jong
    Translated from Dutch:Mechel Jamenfeld
    Editing:Ben Noach
    Final editing:Hanneke Noach

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