Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel

The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the Netherlands. It was purchased for use as a burying ground by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1614 and is located in the village of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, in the countryside near Amsterdam.

In addition to its age, the graveyard is interesting because the tombstones have inscriptions in three languages, Portuguese, Dutch and Hebrew, and because, unusually for a Jewish cemetery, many of the tombstones are carved with elaborate scenes including human figures.

There are two paintings by Jacob van Ruisdael that were inspired by Beth Haim. Although the paintings are usually called in English "The Jewish Cemetery at Ouderkerk", they are in the romantic style, which is to say that the artist felt free to add picturesque elements, and they therefore do not closely resemble the actual location.

Famous people buried at the Beth Haim include:

  • Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, friend of the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn, who apart from making an etching of the Rabbi also illustrated his books. It was Rabbi Menashe, whom together with Rabbi Jacob Sasportas, pleaded with Oliver Cromwell to allow the Jews to settle in England on philosophical and theological grounds.
  • Dr. Eliahu Montalto, personal physician to Maria de Medici.
  • The parents of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

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