Portuguese-Jewish elderly care

The care of elderly Jews had been a task of the Jewish community from way back. This community consisted of Portuguese Jews and German and East-European Jews, all of whom had customs of their own. They had their own synagogues and their own care institutions.


Rapenburgerstraat with the synogogue, year unknown. Photo: City Archive Amsterdam


The Portuguese association Misjenet Zekeniem (Support for the elderly) acquired the premises on the Nieuwe Herengracht (canal) in 1794 as a donation and established the Portugees Israëlitisch Gesticht voor Oude Lieden (a Portuguese-Israelite home for the elderly), in short called PIGOL, there. Only men stayed here. There was a home for elderly Portuguese-Jewish women at Amstel 53.


Photo of Rapenburgerstraat from 1972; the building next to the synogogue is demolished

A synagogue of its own

An intimate house synagogue was set up on the second floor. Because a minimum of ten men stayed at the home at all times, min-jan was always possible. This is the number of adult men that is required for a service. A hole had been made in the ceiling of the synagogue, resulting in a gallery. The interior still includes the wooden pillars that support the ceiling.


In 1973 the building was completely renovated and used as the head office for NIW until 2004


An extension at the back of the premises functioned as a soeka, or tabernacle. The roof can be opened up during the tabernacles celebration, rendering it possible to live in a ‘hut’ beneath the skies for a week in accordance with Jewish tradition. This is a reminder of the temporary constructions of the biblical Israelites during their journey through the desert.