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Heritage Civilization and the Jews
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Jewish AmsterdamJewish Amsterdam
The first Jewish settlers in Amsterdam were Marranos, Jews who converted to Christianity, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century. Later, German and Polish Jews poured into the city after wars and massacres had uprooted their communities. By the 1600s, with both Sephardic (of Spanish origin) and Ashkenazic (of northwest European origin) Jews, Amsterdam was home to the largest Jewish community in western Europe.

View slides of Sephardic and Ashkenazic life in Amsterdam.

MusicLekhah Dodi Hymn
The hymn Lekha Dodi, meaning "Come, My Friend," is sung during the Friday night service to welcome the Sabbath. It was written by the poet and kabbalist Solomon Alkabetz in Safed in the mid 16th century. Safed, in the Galilee, was a major center of the study of kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. As mystical practices of kabalah were popularized, the song spread throughout the Jewish world. While the original melody of Lekha Dodi has been lost, there are over 2000 regional melodies from both Sephardic and Ashkenazic liturgies.

Listen to different melodies of Lekha Dodi from around the world.
Polish Jewry
Polish JewryMany Jews from western Europe migrated to Poland in the wake of anti-Jewish laws and pogroms, and with the prospect of new trade possibilities. The Polish Jewish community would eventually be one of the largest in the world, with hundreds of synagogues, yeshivas, and public organizations.

View slides of Jewish life in 16th and 17th Poland and learn about early Yiddish literature.

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