Mokum is Home

Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum

in European Judaism
Robin OstowUniversity of Toronto

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Mokum is 'Amsterdam' in the local dialect of Yiddish. Deriving from the Hebrew word makom, meaning 'place', Mokum affectionately designates the Dutch capital as 'the place' for Jews. Judith Belinfante, director of Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum from 1976 to 1998, explained: 'Amsterdam was, for a long time, the only place where Jews could come without any restrictions'. Already in the early seventeenth century, Jews began arriving, from Portugal and from Central and Eastern Europe. And, in contrast to the rest of Europe, in Amsterdam, they were given unlimited freedom to settle, and were never confined to ghettos, or forced to wear a distinctive sign. The extent of Jewish institutional integration in Amsterdam, and today, throughout the Netherlands, is nowhere more evident than in the history and exhibitions of Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum. It's a classical Heimat or 'home town' museum. It celebrates the city, and displays Amsterdam and Dutch Jewry as a dynamic, loyal and well-integrated minority.

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European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe


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