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  • The Jewish Community of Zuidland

    The Jews in Zuidland and other places in Voorne-Putten

    "Jewish life in Zuidland," by Riet de Leeuw van Weenen-van der Hoek

    Zuidland, Heenvliet, Brielle, Geervliet, Hellevoetsluis and Zwartewaal are small places, situated on the island of Voorne-Putten in Zeeland. The first Jews settled in Zuidland and in other small places of the Zeeland isles during the first half of the 18th century. Which Jewish cattle trader or merchant discovered Voorne-Putten is unknown, but there is an annotation by the "Magistraats Resolutien van Brielle" dated 27 November 1700, instructing the town employee to sell the merchandise"left by the Jew who had lived in Maarland, after his flight." Apparently this was the first Jew on the island.

    According to the "Diakonierekeningen" of Ouderhoorn a certain amount was paid to a "converted Jew" in 1735 or 1736. In 1749 in Brielle another Jew was converted and in 1754 Salomon Hartog was permitted to settle in Geervliet as a butcher. With him Jewish life started in Voorne-Putten.
    We also found some Jewish citizens in Hellevoetsluis in 1755 and in Heenvliet in 1756. During those years several Jews requested the authorities of Brielle permission to enter the town and to settle there. They made several conditions: "Religious freedom, equal civil rights, free professions, shops, and authority to practice occupations like tailors, shoe makers, watch makers and surgeons".

    The Brielle authorities decided to consult other towns like The Hague and Rotterdam and after some time the Jewish applicants were authorized to settle in Brielle and were granted freedom of religion and equal rights.

    They could not become part of the town guard, unless they were willing to pay six guilders a year, but they could become members of the Groot Kramersgilde.Bit by bit more Jewish families settled on the island. They were: Cattle traders, butchers, or merchants. As merchants they had several possibilities. They could become cattle merchants, traders in used clothing, groceries, or become peddlers. They also could take part in weekly and yearly markets.
    The "gaarderboeken" from 1763 mention the passing away of a stranger belonging to the Jewish nation, named Hartogh, who was buried in Rotterdam.

    In 1773 the citizens of Zuidland were shocked. "During evening prayers a great fire started in one of the houses belonging to a Jewish family. People were afraid that the fire would spread to neighboring buildings. It was a very dark evening, but through the vigilance of the fire brigade using a fire extinguisher the fire was quickly mastered and the neighboring houses were not damaged."

    In 1781, eight years later, a drawn-out law suit developed between two Jews, Jacob Hartogh from Zuidland , and Isaac Davids from Geervliet, regarding an unpaid debt. Hartogh requested the authorities to be freed from legal expenses, since he had suffered from an outbreak of a fire. Whether this was the same fire is unknown.
    It is not known where Jacob Hartogh came from and when he settled in Zuidland. His wife, Johanna Levie, died in 1792 and he himself in 1796. Both were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Geervliet.During the 18th century some Jews still lived in Zuidland. Afterwards the emancipation started.

    According to the census of 1795 there lived 900 people in Zuidland and Velgersdijk, including 9 Jews. The National Assembly from 2 September 1796 decreed "that no Jew shall be denied any rights or privileges connected to the Batavian civil rights." The Portuguese and part of the Ashkenazi Jews – fearing assimilation – were opposed to this decree, which meant annihilation of their independence. But there were also advantages. The guilds were abolished and all professions were now accessible to Jews.
    In official documents and education the Dutch language became obligatory. The markets were moved from Saturday to other days, in order to enable the Jews to partake in them. In 1808 everybody was obliged to adopt a family name.

    The synagogue
    The members of the small Jewish community of Voorne-Putten were spread over Geervliet, Heenvliet, Zuidland, Zwartewaal, Hellevoetsluis and Brielle. In 1811 a Jewish family moved also to Spijkenisse. Till 1807 they congregated for their services in a small home synagogue in Geervliet. Since the distance between Geervliet and the surrounding villages was more that the allowed Shabbat walking distance they arrived at Heenvliet or Geervliet on Friday before the entrance of the Shabbat and spent the night there.
    Not much is known about this period. We know that Moses Salomon van Emden, who lived with his family in Heenvliet since 1772, was the Jewish teacher since 1797.Then he was 65 years. Probably he was also the Rebbe?

    In 1806 the Parnassiem of the Jewish community of Heenvliet asked permission to repair a house and to fix the adjoining barn, to establish a synagogue and place of congregation, because the one in Geervliet had become too small.
    On Friday, 23 January 1807 the Torah scrols were brought with musical accompaniment to the new synagogue at the Kerkweg in Heenvliet. The chazzan from Rotterdam sang the prayers and Rabbi Hartog Jacob Sach gave a sermon, based on Psalm 84. The bailiff of Heenvliet was also present at the ceremony.

    The whole community had 123 members, spread over the island. In 1809 there lived in Heenvliet about 44 Jews, in Brielle 21, in Geervliet 7, in Hellevoetsluis 18, in Zwartewaal 18, and 11 Jews in Zuidland.
    The rabbi, Hartog Jacob Sach functioned also as a shochet and teacher of religion, but for his living he repaired watches.
    Due to a disagreement the families from Brielle and Hellevoetsluis started their own services in Brielle. As a result Heenvliet was saddled with the cost of purchase and restoration of the synagogue.

    Although Brielle and Hellevoetsluis had stopped their contributions, they kept sending poor vagabonds to the parnassiem of Heenvliet and poor people who died in Brielle and Hellevoetsluis were also buried by the burial society of Heenvliet.
    In 1818 Brielle inaugurated a synagogue of its own.
    In 1808 king Lodewijk established the "Opperconsistorie" concentrating all Jewish communities in Holland. In 1814 the Nederlands Israelitische Kerkgenootschap was founded and a high commission for Israelite matters was established.

    The Netherlands were divided into parts, each one with a main synagogue, a ring synagogue and additional synagogues. Brielle and Heenvliet were connected to the main synagogue of The Hague. In 1834 Hellevoetsluis established a home synagogue of their own, which was registered as an additional one, connected to the ring synagogue of Brielle and at last also Zuidland was registered.

    The synagogue of Heenvliet, taken into use in 1807, became a heavy burden for the Jewish community. The municipality of Heenvliet did not grant any subsidy, because in their opinion the church and the school were founded for a special religious group, without any general importance. It was remarked that the Israelites also did not contribute to the building of the Protestant church.
    Finally, on advice of the municipality, a subsidy of 30 guilders was granted. After royal decree of 1867 a further subsidy, paid by the state, was extended.
    In 1887 a synagogue in Zuidland was inaugurated. But the situation remained difficult. From the 57 Jews living in Zuidland, 17 went to the synagogue in Heenvliet.

    The mikwe
    During the same period when the synagogue in Zuidland was erected and a Jewish cemetery at the Kerkweg was opened, a mikwe was being prepared on the corner of Breedstraat and Nieuwstraat. The mikwe was situated in a house. When the house was sold in 1908 the mikwe could not be used anymore.

    Jewish education
    Till 1857 there was a home teacher for religious teaching on the island. His duty was the teaching of Hebrew, Torah and Talmud to the children.At the age of 13 a boy becomes Bar Mitzwa,an adult from the religious point of view. He shows his Hebrew knowledge in the synagogue by reading from the Torah.
    Often the religious teacher was also the chazzan and sometimes also the shochet, the ritual butcher.We have no information regarding a special building or classroom for the Jewish lessons.

    The cemetery
    Due to the growth of the Jewish community of Voorne-Putten, a need for a cemetery of their own made itself felt. The burials were done in Rotterdam which was far away, and often the roads were not passable. According to a deed from Geervliet, from June 1781, a parcel of land was put at the disposal of the Jewish community against a one- time payment of fifty guilders and an additional payment of four guilders per year, "in perpetual hereditary tenure, at the inner side of the Spuidijk, from the hedge at the Ringdijk along the orchard of Thijs van der Ham, the length and breadth of it to be regulated and marked by us, which will serve them as a cemetery for their dead."

    After a short time the "gaarderegisters" mentioned the issue of authorizing the transportation of the deceased from neighboring places to Geervliet.From the start this cemetery served the whole region. Over the years more parcels of land were bought from the van der Ham family, till the area of the cemetery became 15 are by 50 hectare. There also stood a "metaher" house.
    In 1802 some Jewish residents applied to the town management requesting measures against roaming pigs belonging to one of the neighbors, which caused damage to the metaher house.
    In 1888 a cemetery in Zuidland was established in Klein Nibbeland, also with a metaher house. But a few Jewish families from Zuidland kept burying their dead in Geervliet.
    During the Second World War this cemetery was "sold." Only in 1958 was the cemetery returned to its lawful owners. Regarding part of the unused land a reasonable agreement was signed with the community, which cared from now on for the maintenance of this small cemetery. The metaher house has disappeared, probably during the great flood of 1953, but there is no exact information regarding this point.
    Before the war the cemeteries usually were in a bad condition. In 1933 the Weekblad voor Israelitische Huisgezinnen published an appeal to maintain the cemetery of Voorne-Putten.

    Economic Activity
    The minutes of "Schout en Schepenen" of Zuidland from 1797 stated: "Further on the same day appeared before us Elias Moses, butcher in Geervliet, who requested that his son Heijman Elias,would function here as butcher and apprentice. After dealing with said request we agreed to it and instructed the secretary to copy and publish our decision."Heijman was now allowed to settle as a butcher. However, when his father registered and adopted the name of "Cohen" in 1811, Heijman Elias, 41 years old, lived in Hellevoetsluis.
    Already in 1782 merchants did good business in Zuidland. A house and a shed were sold to a Jewish merchant. In 1802 the sale of another house followed.
    After the change of the century more Jews came to Zuidland, but earning their living was not easy. One Moses Joseph had to earn his living "going around with a pack" and with a small shop at his house. At auctions in 1803 and 1804 he bought two tons for 4 stuivers and a trough with a ton for 8 stuivers. For some "other stuff" he paid 10 stuivers.

    Hartog Beem, in his book "De verdwenen mediene," described the life of the peddler:
    "The small soucher earned his bread – or tried anyway to do so –by trading in the market or in the street. The prototype of the medienesoucher was the man who "went to the farmers." He went to the farmer. Not steering a car, but as a peddler with a heavy pack on his back, drudging along the roads, in snow and cold of winter, and in the smothering heat of summer, painfully "schlepping" from farm to farm. In that way they went their "derech hamelech," their royal way, as they called it euphemistically, alluding to the words of the bible.
    They left early in the morning, after having said "tefilat haderech." Their wife accompanied them till the door with the heartfelt wish of mazzel and brooche!
    That's the way they were going, hour after hour, day after day, with their exhausting burden on their back, or in a wheelbarrow, often on their way from Monday till Friday, without any cooked food, or at the utmost a few potatoes boiled by themselves, often scolded and harassed and ridiculed by an uncultivated rough crowd, and all that for an hardly sufficient existence.
    They were "schlepping" -dragging themselves along the roads,in the sweat of their face, and not only of their face; "lekajeem ma shene'emar,"proving what has been written that Jews do not work."

    But on a list from Zuidland from 1814, listing Jewish professions, there also appear two surgeons, two midwives, nine tailors, four seamstress, four shoemakers and eight tappers. There were also Jewish cattle traders on the island and there was the imposing profession of "veterinary and surgeon of horses and cattle", a title which sounded better than veterinary only. These Jewish people had no simple existence.
    Beem wrote: " They were often small peddlers, poor shop holders, small butchers, hawkers, paupers, wandering along the roads, trading in rusty metal, rags, skins, waste, living on the border of poverty or less, with only here and there a scarce wealthy individual amongst them. They were a very poor community but with an unbreakable spirit and great energy."

    Butchers and slaughterers
    Officially most of them were only merchants or cattle traders, but often they had a second profession. Some were butchers and possessed a meadow to fatten the cattle. Such a meadow was popularly called a "Jodenwei."
    After the slaughter the wife or daughter went to the clients to take an order, which was delivered at home. Refrigerating had not yet been invented.
    At the start of the 20th century a real butcher shop was opened, which was clean and clear. The butchery was behind the house and boys from Amsterdam, Puttershoek, Delfzijl and Maastricht were taught there how to butcher kosher meat.

    Taxes, conscription and voting
    Like all Dutchmen the Jews also had to pay taxes. And like all Dutchmen the Jews protested when they thought that the taxes were too high.
    In the summer of 1810 the Jews were admitted to the armed vigilantes and some of them were nominated as officers. They fought with the militia in the campaign against Belgium.
    In the archives lists of community elections were found, provincial and state elections, which included Jewish names. In 1917 general election rights were pronounced. The Jews also took part in the fire brigade.

    Zuidland's kille
    For unclear reasons the Jews of Zuidland separated from the Heenvliet community, which had a synagogue in 1887. The service was now held in a home synagogue in Zuidland. One of the Jewish community members dedicated a room of his house for this purpose.

    A flourishing community
    In 1896 the chief rabbi visited the different communities of Voorne-Putten in order to inspect the Jewish schools and institutions. These communities were closely knit and maintained several associations, one of them was the "Chewre Kadiesha" taking care of the dead.

    But like all places in the "mediene," the small synagogues were closed and Zuidland could also not evade the magic of the large towns. At first the younger people left and afterwards also the elder ones. In 1918 the synagogue of Zuidland was sold and some of the people who remained got nearer to the "kille" in Heenvliet.
    Finally, in 1934, the communities of Voorne-Putten came under the surveillance of the chief rabbi of Rotterdam.
    As a result of the Second World War the Jewish communities of Voorne-Putten, Brielle, Heenvliet and Zuidland joined in 1947 the Nederlands Israelitische community of Rotterdam. Hellevoetsluis joined a bit later in 1948.

    Jewish "slanderaars"
    The inhabitants of Zuidland were called "slanderaars," and so there were also Jewish "slanderaars."Like all others they were part of the village life and you could find them in the library and in all kind of committees. One Jewish citizen became a member of the commission fighting school absence.
    The cooperation between Jews was good, and so was the cooperation between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens.

    The keeping of the yearly fair caused many problems and discussions arose whether a fair was permissible or not. A signature list was used stating pro and contra. We assume that the Jewish innkeepers did not vote against.

    In these regions there also was a trend of anti-Jewish feelings. Sometimes these were slumbering, but sometimes they flamed up. Often jealousy was the reason.
    The Jews were accused of extreme cleverness in financial matters and of intellectualism. In 1875 there was a controversy whether the term "Smous" was abusive.

    The mayor was often confronted with mutual quarrels. Nevertheless all Jews found their place in the village society. Forty five murdered Jews did not return after the war.

    Extracted from source:Yael (Lotje) Benlev-de Jong
    Translated from Dutch:Michael Jamenfeld
    Review:Ben Noach
    End editing:Hanneke Noach

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