Ets Haim – Livraria Montezinos

Mr. Visserplein 3, 1011 RD Amsterdam, Netherlands

Simona Bertolaso



Siti Storici
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Ets Haim is the oldest active Jewish library in the world. It was established in 1616 as part of the Talmud Torah school, and has occupied its current premises in the marvelous complex of the Portuguese Jewish Synagogue in Amsterdam since 1675. The library, which consists of some 600 manuscripts and 23,000 printed works, possesses a large, rich collection relating to Jewish life in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and as such it has been a core part of Amsterdam’s cultural heritage for almost 400 years.

As a result of the inquisition on the Iberian peninsula many Jews who were forcefully converted to Christianity (conversos) fled to cities such as Antwerp and Amsterdam in the course of the 16th century.

At the end of the 16th century the first conversos settled in Amsterdam. They were conscious of the Jewish background. Here in Amsterdam they were given the possibility of learning about their long-forgotten Jewish customs and traditions and to rediscover their Jewish identity.

Initially the Ets Haim (“Tree of Life”) Library started out as part of the Talmud Torah school founded by the first Portuguese Jewish congregation in Amsterdam in 1616. There was a great demand for education and the school’s curriculum was very broad.

The school’s library is part of the current collection of Ets Haim and shows that besides religious education, there was a vast array of interest for different subjects. The collection also shows how important the Iberian identity was to the community while embracing Amsterdam as their home.

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