Fodor's Expert Review Portuguese Synagogue
Inspired by Jerusalem's Temple of Solomon, Elias Bouman designed this noted synagogue between 1671 and 1675 for the Sephardic community, the first Jews to settle in the Netherlands. They were descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews—Sepharad is Hebrew for the Iberian peninsula—escaping the Inquisition or forced conversion to Catholicism in the 15th and 16th centuries. When it was completed, it was the largest synagogue in Europe, and its spare, elegantly proportioned wood interior has remained virtually unchanged through the centuries. It is still magically illuminated by hundreds of candles in immense candelabra during services. The buildings around the synagogue house the world-famous Ets Haim (Tree of Life) library, the oldest still-functioning Jewish library in the world.