|Hans and Hetti|
|Portuguese Synagogue from the Outside|
I forgot my Tefillin in Houston and had been borrowing Tefilin since. I was nervous that I wouldn't find a pair to use in Amsterdam. Fortunately, the Israeli at the entrance booth had a pair for me to use and I davened Minchah at this historic site. It was quite moving.
Outside the synagogue, Hetti pointed out to me the statue of "The Dockworker" commemorating the so-called February Strike. It was the first major protest from the Dutch against what was happening in their country under Nazi occupation. Anti-Semitic measures were being passed and an atmosphere of terror was being created. The strike was called in reaction to German round-ups of Jews that took place in Amsterdam on 22 and 23 February 1941. On those two days 425 young Jewish men were arrested, and sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, where almost all of them died.
The round-ups were in part a Nazi reprisal for what had just happened in an ice-cream parlour in Amsterdam. The shop was run by two German-Jewish refugees, named Cahn and Kohn. The Nazi police, the Grüne Polizei, raided Koco's ice-cream parlour and were greeted with ammonia sprayed at them. The strike was organized by the underground Dutch Communist Party. The party, later known as the CPN, wrote the famous manifesto calling upon the Dutch to 'Strike, strike, strike!' which was circulated among many Amsterdam businesses early on the morning of 25 February. Throughout the city, firms went on strike: public transport, municipal work, shipbuilding and the metal industries in North Amsterdam, all came to a standstill. Large department stores, like De Bijenkorf on Dam Square, remained closed for business. The next day the strike spread to neighbouring towns and centres. The Nazi occupiers broke the strike with harsh measures. A remembrance of the strike is observed in Amsterdam on 25 February each year in the square beside the statue of the Docker.
After leaving the synagogue, we proceeded over to the Jewish Museum. There I saw many interesting artifacts. However, in my new found position as fundraiser, what caught my eye was a very interesting ledger. In order to keep track of pledges made on Shabbat when it is forbidden to keep a written record, the community produced a book that included the names of all community members with a series of peg holes on the page next to the names. When an individual made a pledge, someone could place a peg in the whole next to his name corresponding to the amount of the pledge -- a kind of Shomer Shabbat method of passing around the plate!
Next we began our walk back to catch a bus towards the Poortvliet's home from where they would take me to the airport. I loved walking around in the city. Hetti, who is a former tour guide, pointed out all kinds of interesting sites. The important canals, the old churches, medieval towers, the Amstel River etc... Besides the charm of the city which I had not sufficiently remembered, I was struck by the massive amount of cyclists. It was really impressive. On the drive back to the airport Hetti was already planning my next visit so that I could see all that I had missed! I hope I do get to go back.
|The Amstel River|
|So Many Bikes|