Wednesday, March 22, 2006


The first settlement in the eighteenth century and the opposition of the city fathers.

[Note: this is more or less a draft at present - I hope to interpolate, and add links and notes. After dealing with the Eindhoven region I will post some stuff about Jews in Brabant and Flanders in the Burgundian age, and some stuff about the Jews of Naarden, and other things Dutch and Jewish. Perhaps also a list of Judeo-Dutch terms and expressions (a work still in progress). Suggestions, criticisms, and commentary are absolutely welcome.]

In a comment on Lipmans blog ( see this posting: I mentioned that I would re-read material about a number of things having to do with Dutch Jewry, particularly the Mediene Joden (provincial Jews) and the Jews of the Eindhoven region. This post will deal with the Jews of the Eindhoven region, and their attempts to legally reside in the city of Eindhoven during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


It should be mentioned that until fairly recent times there were few or no Jews in the Kempen region, of which Eindhoven is the major and only city.

The Kempen region is in the eastern part of the Netherlands province of North Brabant, with the Peel in Limburg to the east, the Breda area to the west, and the Kempenland in Belgian Limburg to the south. Eindhoven is more or less centrally located, about twenty kilometers north of the frontier. Eindhoven counts roughly two hundred thousand inhabitants. There are probably another hundred and fifty thousand people in the surrounding region, spread out over towns and villages of diverse origins (several dialect isoglosses cut through the region, and the area was the scene of much violence during the eighty years war against Spain).

Especially to be noted is that Jewish settlement in the region tended to skip villages inhabited by Teuten - traveling salesmen, oddjobbers, small merchants, and such like, who in the slow parts of the agricultural year would disperse over all of northwestern Europe as far as Sweden and Russia, touting their wares and their skills (hence the name 'Teuten').
Given that Jews often first entered the region as traveling sellers of small goods, it follows naturally that they would have scant benefit from settling among their competitors, and would be incentivized to avoid those villages.


In this regard, I must mention Valkenswaard, one of the major Teuten-towns, where I lived from 1965 to 1978.
Before the war there were only a minute handful of Jews in the town, resentfully included in the Eindhoven Synagogue circuit (resentfully, because it prevented them from arranging services locally - and at a distance of ten kilometers the Eindhoven synagogue was not exactly the neighborhood shul for shabbes). After the war the number of Jews in Valkenswaard increased, as the town became a bedroom community for employees of Philips Electronics.
Evenso, Valkenswaard never developed a kehilla, and in contrast to some of the other villages in the area there were never any of the institutions or infrastructure that mark a thriving Jewish presence.

One can say that Valkenswaard was as unmarked by anti-Semitism as it was nearly unmarked by Jews.


Which brings me to the next thing that must be noted, namely that the rise in Jewish settlement partially coincided with the re-legalizing of the Catholic church and the return of ecclesiastical buildings to the church, whose organizations returned from their long exile in Ravenstein in the nineteenth century and set about rebuilding.

This almost inevitably meant an increase in religious bigotry aimed at Protestants (no longer the only legal version of Christianity) and Jews (not particularly privileged, but no longer absent either). The local church-fathers saw it as their mission to take back the fold, using sometimes underhanded means to assert dominance, while the Protestant clergy despised the locals and strove to maintain the privileged position of their transmigrant 'Ollander flock - bureaucrats, constables, tax-collectors, and such like.

All of this in an area whose most noticeable characteristic until the 1960's was poverty. The Kempen is sandy terrain and fen country, not particularly fertile, with no real resources other than the cheap labour of a desperate peasantry.

During the period when North Brabant was ruled as conquered territory (States Generality lands) the only official interest in the province was expressed via taxation and garrisons (nominally to protect the frontier against threats from the Southern Netherlands, later the French). One would be correct in assuming that the locals developed an almost instinctive distrust of outsiders, and a tendency to disregard the law. Plus a bellicose mindset.

Not a particularly promising area for Jewish settlement.

Which explains why many of the Jews who ended up here were wandering Poles (rondzwervende Polakken), rather than Amsterdam or Rotterdam Yidden.


The first Jews noted to have resided in Eindhoven were the butcher Benjamin Jacobs, his wife Sara, their maidservant Eva, Gompert-the-servant and Gompert-the-child (let us assume that the elder and younger Gompert most likely were not Jews) (*). This small household was permitted residency in the city of Eindhoven in 1695, and went bankrupt in 1697. Hardly a promising start.
(*) Note: Lipman mentions that Gompert was a common Jewish name at the time. Which I did not know. I thought it was Dutch, as I have seen it mostly in a Dutch context without the suggestion that the person so named was Jewish. Given the attitude of many at that time, it is of course more likely than not that the servants of Benjamin Jacobs and his spouse were of the same religion as their employers.
For the next fifty years no Jews officially lived in Eindhoven, though there were probably a handful who rented rooms and kept a low profile.

In 1761 Joseph Isaacq rented a dwelling, and by 1766 Salomon Levy, Israel Levy, Nathan Mendel, and Philip Lazarus (also known as Philip Valk), and their various dependents, had increased the community to fifteen people, despite a previously unregistered Jew named Meijer Mendel deciding to move to Veghel (he requested and received the essential letter attesting to orderly behaviour before he left).

The fifteen soon diminished, due to the tax practices of the Eindhoven magistrate, with Joseph Isaacq and Nathan Mendel registering a letter of complaint with the Prince of Orange, to little effect, and Salomon and Israel Levy (and their families - eight and four persons respectively) moving to Woensel.
[Note: Woensel is to the north of Eindhoven proper. It has some very lovely neighborhoods with trees and greenery, a small impossibly clean shopping center, older lower middle class neighborhoods which are have largely become a thriving red-light district, many Turks and North-African immigrants, and a reputation for criminal assaults and robbery. Still, as I said, it has its charms. My father lived there in the last decade of his life. In the late eighteenth century it was still legally a village, whereas Eindhoven, with scarcely more inhabitants, was a city, and dignified to boot. Go figger.]

Woensel at that time was where the Benedict brothers (Lazarus, Isaac, and Elias) lived, in the Fellenoord neighborhood, which more or less functioned as a Jewish neighborhood. Here is also where Salomon Levi ended up, and presumably Joseph Levi Abraham, who moved to Eindhoven in 1778. Also resident of the neighborhood were Hertog Moisis and family (8 people), 'the Jew Polak', and the 'Jewish master' (probably Heyman Moisis, who had been forced out of Eindhoven a few years before). Additionally mentioned on the Woensel rolls are 'Elske the Jewess', and a person merely noted down in the tax rolls as 'the Jew' living in Erp. There were probably a few more, but as they were too poor to pay taxes, they have not been noted down.


In 1771 Lazarus Benedict petitioned to reside in Eindhoven, and audaciously requested admission to the status of 'poorter' (city citizen). After being told that this had met favourable consideration, he made preparations to leave Woensel, giving up his lease on his residence there. Only to be informed that despite favourable recommendations by the substitute drossaerd of Eindhoven, the city administration nevertheless demanded payment of a guarantee sum of fifteen hundred florins for himself, his wife, and his three children. A horrendous amount.

In desperation, Lazarus Benedict sent a plea-letter to the Prince (Eindhoven belonged to the domains of the house of Orange). The Prince's Domain-Council determined that Lazarus Benedict should be permitted to dwell in Eindhoven while awaiting a formal decision. The residency request was sent back to the Eindhoven regents, who denied the request, considering the settlement of Jews extremely ill-advised, and in their estimation quite probably disastrous for the local poor, who would be much affected adversely, as a Jewish presence was "both pernicious and ruinous" ('pernicieus en ruineus').

At this point Ardesch, one of the councilors of the Prince, decided to investigate the issue personally and traveled to Eindhoven, which resulted in the Prince's Domain-Council formally deciding that no ifs ands or buts the Jews should be permitted residency and equal treatment. As of October first 1772, Lazarus Benedict, his wife, and three children were legally residents of Eindhoven.

One would think that the residency issue would end here. But no. In 1777 another Jew dared to request legally residency! The civic government tried to interpret the decision of 1772 in such a manner as to allow the demand of guarantee payments and approval letters, and all the other red-tape they deemed necessary.
The Domain-Council had to explain to them that Jews who had not run afoul of the law could not be refused residency, or forced to pay guarantee fees or provide approval letters. Once more the gate swung open.

By 1783 the civic government became feisty again, and denied the request of Elias Benedict of Helmond to live in the city.

Mr. Benedict did not take this lying down.
About which I will write in the next installment.


Phillip Minden said...

Interesting material!

One can say that Valkenswaard was as unmarked by anti-Semitism as it was nearly unmarked by Jews.

The casual reader should note the absence of a comma after "anti-Semitism".

Gompert-the-servant and Gompert-the-child (let us assume that the elder and younger Gompert most likely were not Jews)

Why? Not only were servants of Jews often Jews, and Gompert is a common Jewish name at the time, but as I know from places like Hamburg, Jews that wouldn't otherwise be permitted to the place were permitted as servants of other Jews. (In Hamburg, this led to the more privileged Sefardic Jews employing an astonishing number of indispensible Ashkenazic servants...)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Goedendag The back of the hill,

Have you heard about a gentleman with the name of Phocas Kroon? He wrote a book about the Jewish community of Eindhoven during the years 1940-1945 in 2003 (the book - which is small by the way - is thus focussed primarily on the Shoah), also with some information about the community before 1940. The book goes into detail about how the press and the city council reacted to the Nazi occupation and the consequences this had for the Jewish "Eindhovenaren", among other things. Very interesting.

If you want to I can give you his e-mailadres. I don't know whether there are still books available - there were only some 100-150 copies made, and those were all sold out almost immediately, so ...

The back of the hill said...

Yes, I would love to have his e-mail address, and be able to acquire a copy of his book if it is still available.

Bij voorbaat uiterst dank.

Anonymous said...

Zijn e-mailadres is Ik wilde zijn e-mailadres in eerste instantie privé naar jou mailen (ik weet niet of hij het op prijs stelt als zijn e-mailadres op het Internet wordt verspreid), maar ik geen persoonlijk e-mailadres van je vinden, vandaar. Dus dan toch maar zo.

- Rick (uit Eindhoven) (assuming you understand Dutch ;-) )

The back of the hill said...

Rick, ontzettend bedankt voor het posten van die iemeel address.

Ik zal, uit veiligheids overwegingen, uwe comment met het address erin uitwissen.

Ik heb nog geen eigen iemeel hier gezet - ik krijg genoeg spam, begrijpt ge.

The back of the hill said...

Beste Rick, ik heb geen manier kunnen vinden om het comment met de iemeel address uit te wissen.
Het spijt me.

Maar daar deze posting all ge-archived is, is het niet zo waarschijnlijk dat velen op deze commenten terug zullen komen.

Althans, dat hoop ik. Indien anderen de iemeel address zien word hun bij deze natuurlijk om discretie verzocht.

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