Sunday, 28 October 2012

Successful, modern Jews in the Hague, 1743

The paragraph below is from the description of the Hague published in 1743. I suspect the author is not as cultured as he may wish us to believe. He was probably presented with a prayerbook, as would happen today. I suspect that a lot of the apparently learned digressions into matters of religion in books of this period is simply a way of showing off ones alleged superior intellect and sensibility, just as one might create a blog today.

The author(s) also mentions that Mr. Swartzo [Suasso?] the Jew has the nicest house in the area. Elsewhere we hear that the “opulent and magnificent M. Lopez, a Jew” organised a kind of opera in the city, including foreign artistes. We get the impression that – at the same time that New Christians were being persecuted by the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions, some of their relatives in the Hague were living wealthy, sophisticated and integrated lives in the Netherlands.

“The Jewish Synagogue stands here [in New Voorhout, The Hague], which has not been long built, and does not front the Street. It is very neat and fine within, and is well worth being seen by the curious Traveller; which Pleasure he may have every Saturday, the Sabbath of the Jews. One may understand the Worship of the Old Testament, and the Jewish Rites and Antiquities better by seeing a Synagogue, and being present in Time of Worship, than by the tedious dry Study of all the Books in the World: The Method of acquiring Knowledge by the Eye is easy and pleasant. The Jews in their Synagogues are civil enough to Strangers, if they behave with any Degree of Decency: They present them with an Hebrew Bible to read in, and accommodate them in other Respects.”

A Description of Holland: or, The present state of the United Provinces. 1743. Pages 26-27

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