The very early and freezing Winter of 1996, which overwhelmed Holland with a vengeance in December, was the cause of taking some pictures of the frozen lakes and canals around Amsterdam.
It brought me to this spot, which is at the same time of some interest to genealogists with (Dutch) Sephardi connections.
So I decided it might be worth while to post it here.
The Beth Haim at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel.
This village, now about 4 km. South of Amsterdam is situated at the spot where the stream called Bullewijk runs into the river Amstel. Since 1614 it is the cemetery of the Portugees-Israelietische Gemeente of Amsterdam, the Sephardim who since their first settling in the low countries after the expulsion fom Spain and Portugal, finally were able to buy land nearer to Amsterdam, the largest community in the Netherlands. The Municipality of the city had not and still did not at that time, allow them to buy land within the city boundaries. Up to this time they had to bury their dead in Groet near Alkmaar. It is the burialplace of Menasseh ben Israel and the father of Baruch de Spinosa amongst many other wellknown Sephardim.
Of great and peculiar interest are the sculptured gravestones, which strictly speaking are not allowed and could be considered an anomaly in this orthodox cemetery. With their background and in view of the countries where the Dutch Sephardi had lived, the decorations of the stones with people and angels become understandable.
click here for a larger picture.
The photo shows the Bullewijk and the Metaher house - Casa dos Rodeamentos, the house of circuits named for the 7 circlings made around the casket as it lies in the building before being carried to its burial spot in the grounds. It dates from the 18th century. The gate reminds us of the time when the dead were brought here from Amsterdam by canal-boats along the Amstel.
An interesting and illustrated book about the cemetery is "The Beth Haim of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel", written by Louis Alvares Vega z.l. who apart from his many other functions in the Portuguese Jewish community was caretaker of the cemetery during 50 years.
The book is available from Beth Haim..
Interesting details on the cemetery and the efforts made in bringing the necessary restauration about can be found at the
David Henriques de Castrofonds Foundation site.
Further interesting information with regard to Jewish genealogical matters is available at
the Netherlands Society for Jewish Genealogy.