Jerusalem on the Amstel: The Quest for Zion in the Dutch Republic by Lipika Pelham

Jerusalem on the Amstel: The Quest for Zion in the Dutch Republic by Lipika Pelham

Seventeenth-century Amsterdam was a cosmopolitan “carnival of nations:” French Huguenots, North African merchants, Spanish Moriscos–and Iberian New Christians, formerly Jewish families forcibly converted to Catholicism, now fleeing the Inquisition and rediscovering their ancestral faith.

This is the extraordinary tale of Amsterdam’s prosperous Sephardi community during the Dutch Golden Age. Trading, writing, publishing, staging plays and being painted by Rembrandt, this Nação (Nation) of formerly wandering Jews not only settled but thrived, enjoying high status and unparalleled freedom. At a time when Dutch Catholics were repressed and Jews elsewhere were confined to the ghetto, this community dared to nurture the ‘Hope of Israel’, sowing the seeds of Zionism.

Lipika Pelham charts the captivating history of Amsterdam’s Jews, from their integral role in the Dutch economic miracle and the Enlightenment to a somber coda in 1942, when the Nazis herded them into the “Jewish Theater” for deportation to the camps. But this was not the death of the resilient Nação–Pelham also seeks out its descendants in present-day Amsterdam, offering poignant reflection on the meaning of nationhood, the Holocaust and what remains of Jerusalem on the Amstel.

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