Kahal Kados Talmud Tora, the Portuguese Jewish community, is the oldest Jewish community in the Netherlands. The community was established in 1639 by Spanish and Portuguese Jews who were forced to leave Antwerp after that city came under Spanish rule. They had previously fled Spain and Portugal to escape the Spanish Inquisition. These Sefardim found a safe haven in the tolerant city of Amsterdam.
In a short period of time three Sefardic communities were established: Bet Jacob in 1610, or 1602, Neve Salom between 1608 and 1612 and Bet Israel in 1618. The communities merged in 1639 into Talmud Tora, later known as the Portuguese Jewish community. At the time, the Netherlands were fighting to get out from under Spanish control, most likely the reason why the Sefardim dropped the ‘Spanish’ designation.
Many of the newcomers were descendants of Jews who were forcibly baptized. They were referred to as Marranos or conversos. The Sefardim used Portuguese for everyday conversation while Spanish was used for scientific publications, prose and poetry. Initially, the rabbi’s allowed the use of Portuguese in the service to ease the return of the conversos. When most members had learned Hebrew, the service was again held entirely in Hebrew. To this day announcements concerning profane matters are done in Portuguese.
The survivors and their descendants worked hard to rebuild the community. Today, our number is growing, albeit slowly. About 250 families are affiliated with the community and there are about 630 members.
The community’s valuable possessions, the magnificent building, valuable ceremonial objects and the Ets Haim library, have been transferred to a separate foundation, called CEPIG, in 2003. This has made it easier to raise funds and attract subsidies for the restoration and maintenance of the synagogue and the community’s possessions. Since January 2009, CEPIG has been managed and operated by the Jewish Historical Museum, enabling the community to focus on its religious and social tasks.