History

Cultural heritage

Over the centuries the Portuguese Synagogue has been rebuilt and restored several times, but the building's character has always been preserved. In 1773 and 1774 the rear area with the entrance to both women's galleries and the landing were dramatically redone. Between 1852 and 1854 the small leaded panes were replaced by cast-iron windows. An enclosed porch was added at the entrance.

The Portuguese Synagogue after 1945

Compared to the Great Synagogue, the Esnoga kept unharmed during the Second World War and preserved all the seventeenth century elements and collections. On 9 May 1945, the Esnoga was used again for a service for survivors of the Second World War (see photo).

Service in the Esnoga on 9 May 1945, the first service after the Second World War. Photo: Boris KowadloAfter 1945 the Portuguese-Jewish Congregation preserved the synagoge and the annexes independantly. During a minor restoration in 1955-1959 the former main room of Ets Haim Seminary was rearranged to serve as a winter synagogue with heating and electric lights. The benches in this area are from 1639 and were originally used in the synagogue on the Houtgracht. The hechal is from 1744. During the colder months services are held in the winter synagogue.

CEPIG (Cultural Heritage Foundation of the Portuguese-Jewish Congregation)

During the 1980s the structure had become so weak that the building suffered serious deformations. The walls had settled more than the columns, which supported the relatively light wooden roof structure. Rust in the iron anchors caused cracks in the gable, and corrosion had seriously damaged the arch windows. Sections were rotten, and the vaults were flooded. Lack of ventilation drove moisture upward via the pillars. In consultation with the Dutch and communal government the Cultural Heritage Foundation of the Portuguese-Jewish Congregation (CEPIG) was established to preserve the monument.

Restoration 1992-1993

Chandeliers in the Portugese Synagoge. Photo: Gérald MorandIn 1992 and 1993 the Portuguese Synagogue underwent a sweeping restoration. The restoration largely entailed renewing the foundations. The timber roof structure was restored, the 72 cast-iron arched windows were changed, and rusty parts were replaced. The magnificent chandeliers were cleaned, polished and varnished during the restoration. The annexes were modified as well. Ets Haim Library was thoroughly restored, and seats were added to the women's gallery in the winter synagogue. The old Mendes Coutinho house (residence of the former shammash or sexton) was converted into a main entrance and gift shop, and the mikvah (ritual bath) was modernized.

The costly renovation in 1992 and 1993 was funded through contributions from the Dutch government, the City of Amsterdam and the Foundation Friends of the Portuguese-Jewish Synagogue (SVP).

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