In Europe, much of Jewish settlement began with the Roman conquests. Jews followed the path of the Roman legions in Belgium in the years 53-57 A.D.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, Jews settled in Belgium after having been expelled from England and France. Another wave of immigration to Belgium came in the 15th century when the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal.
Educated and sometimes quite wealthy, Jews scattered throughout Europe, settling in the seventeen provinces of the Lowlands, today's Belgium and the Netherlands. Marranos who settled in Antwerp at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century played an important economic and financial role there. Between 1650 and 1694 a secret synagogue conducted services in Antwerp.
The Jewish population in Belgium grew slowly in the 18th and 19th centuries, emigrating mainly from France, Germany and Holland. After 1880, Jews also emigrated from Eastern Europe. In fact Belgium, and especially Antwerp, was seen as a stop to the "Goldene Mediene." Sephardic Jews came also from the Ottoman Empire before the turn of the 19th century.
With the arrival of German refugees in the 1930s, the Jewish population in Belgium reached its peak. By 1939, it has been estimated that 65,000 Jews lived in Belgium-25,000 in Antwerp, 30,000 in Brussels, 5,000 in Liege, 3,000 in Charleroi, with smaller settlements in Gent, Oostende, Namur and Arlon.
By August 1942, the Nazis began transporting Belgian Jews to Auschwitz. By the end of the war approximately 40,000 Belgian Jews had died. After World War II, rebuilding the Jewish communities was the first and main goal of those who survived the Holocaust. These communities consisted of those who hid successfully during the war and the 1,207 who returned from the camps. Other concentration camp survivors and displaced people, who never had lived in Belgium before, joined them.
Today the majority of Belgian Jews belongs to the middle class and is active in the fur, textile, leather and diamond industries. The total Jewish population in Belgium is approximately 42,000. About 20,000 Jews live in Brussels, and 15,000 in Antwerp. Small Jewish communities exist in Charleroi, Oostende, Gent, Liege, Mons, Arlon and Knokke.
In comparison with other occupied countries, a high percentage of Jews were saved by Belgians who went to great lengths hiding children and adults whenever and wherever possible.
Belgium is the 4th largest Jewish Community in Europe
Brussels (Today Brussels has over 20,000 Jewish inhabitants)
|The Belgian Jewish Museum
The Museum is located in a 19th Century town house with a beautiful collection of Jewish art, Jewish religious objects and documents.
|The Great Synagogue
32 Rue de la Regence
B - 1000 Brussels
This magnificent Synagogue was built 1878, it has not been destroyed during the Holocaust.
|Liberal Synagogue (Reform)
96 Avenue de Kersbeek
B - 1190 Brussels
Many Americans attend services here. It's a 20-minute taxi ride from downtown Brussels.
|Synagogue Simon and Lina Haim
47 Rue du Pavillon
B - 1030 Brussels
Elegant modern Sephardic Synagogue built in 1970.
Memorial for Jews deported from Rhodes, Greece.
|The National Monument to the Jewish Martyrs of Belgium
It is an impressive monument located at Rue Emile Carpentier and Rue de Goujons (B - 1070 Brussels) in the district of Anderlecht. The square is called 'Square of the Jewish Martyrs'. 23,838 names are inscribed on the wall. A small museum is also located here.
Pictures & Information
Jewish Community Center
Provides conferences, concerts, a bar, Jewish holiday dinners and children activities.
|Cercle Ben Gourion
89 Chaussee de Vleurgat
B - 1050 Brussels
Tel (322) 648-1859
Provides conferences, concerts, a bar, Jewish holiday dinners and children activities
The Center organizes cultural and religious activities in English for all its members and covering all ages. Services and Sunday School.
|Da Bruno Kosher Restaurant
43 A Rue Froissart
B-1040 - Bruxelles
Tel (322) 280-1690
Da Bruno offers guests kosher italian cuisine with a selection of pasta, pizza and seafood dishes.
Other Jewish Places of Interest
|Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance
The museum is housed in a wing of the former "Dossin de Saint Georges Barracks" at Mechelen. This historic site is also a place of remembrance. It was here, halfway between Brussels and Antwerp, that the Nazis set up the 'SS-Sammellager Mechelen', which served as the assembly point for Jews about to be deported from Belgium. Roughly 25,000 persons including 5,430 children were deported from these barracks to Auschwitz.
|Breendonk Fort National Memorial
Visitors to the "Breendonk Fort National Memorial" are confronted with the most striking and well- preserved historical record of the Nazi terror in West Europe. The tour takes the visitor on a walk around the fort to give an idea of the immense excavation works carried out by the prisoners and ultimately leads the visitor to the execution ground.
|US Specialists in Jewish Tours|
|A Travel Guide to Jewish Europe by Ben G. Frank
Pelican Publishing, Gretna, LA
Tour to the Netherlands and Belgium
|On the Web||Media|
|Belgium Virtual Jewish History Tour by Alden Oreck - The Jewish Virtual Library||Radio Judaica (Jewish radio)
FM 90.2 - Jewish interest programs 24 hours a day.