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UTRECHT:

Province of the Netherlands, with its capital of the same name. Jews resided in Utrecht prior to the expulsion from Spain and Portugal. In 1424 they were banished from the city; and their synagogue was transformed into the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They evidently soon returned; for in 1444 the city council issued an ordinance directing that they be tortured on the wheel, imprisoned, and expelled. The reason for this procedure can no longer be determined with certainty; but it was due either to the fact that the Jews had championed the claims of Wolravus of Meurs to the bishopric, or to allegations made against them of insulting Christianity both publicly and privately. The ordinance of expulsion was quickly repealed, however, by the council itself; and Jews were permitted to settle in the village of Maarsen, near the city.

As early as 1664 a distinction was drawn between the German and Portuguese communities; the former consisting largely of the poorer classes, which earned a livelihood by peddling, while the Portuguese engaged in extensive commercial undertakings, and were wealthy and respected. An ordinance of Oct. 1, 1736, furthermore, gave the Portuguese the official right of residence in the province, and permitted them to conduct their business operations in the city itself. This privilege was renewed in 1777; and in 1789 it was extended to the German Jews on the condition that they assumed all communal duties.

After the uprising of the patriots against William of Orange and his expulsion by the French, France declared the Jews citizens, and granted them all civic rights and liberties. In 1796 a convention of the most prominent Jews of Holland assembled at Utrecht, before which the new constitution was solemnly read. Its text was translated into Hebrew by Ẓebi Hirsch Meilfeld, and published under the title "Dibre Negidim" (Utrecht, 1800).

Bibliography:
  • Koenen, Geschiedenis der Joden in Nederland, Utrecht, 1843.
  • See also Netherlands and the bibliography there given.
D. S. O.
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