Dutch Ashkenazi Community Seeking Ways to Revitalize Membership

The Netherlands Ashkenazi Congregation is considering measures to revitalize its membership against a background of growing indifference and declining numbers. A report published at the annual meeting of the congregation’s central commission Sunday indicated that while the nominal membership of 13,000, more than half of Holland’s total Jewish population of 22,000 seems impressive, very few members are prepared to be personally active on behalf of the congregation and most show little interest in its activities.

A breakdown of the membership showed that 80 percent live in or near the three largest cities. There are 8700 Ashkenazic Jews in the Amsterdam area, 1150 in The Hague and 670 in Ratterdam. In Bussum, some 25 kilometers east of Amsterdam, the Ashkenazic community numbers 240. Seven other towns have between 100-200 and 14 congregations have between 40-90 members. Another 18 congregations have fewer than 35 members each.

The membership is dropping gradually but the congregation and its Executive have increasing tasks, owing in part to expanded international contacts. It was decided at the commission meeting to appoint an assistant secretary to aid Josep Sanders who was appointed secretary six years ago.

Prior to his appointment, the secretary of the Ashkenazi Congregation was combined with that of the Amsterdam congregation in the person of Benjamin W. de Jongh. That situation lasted for some 25 years after World War 11 until de Jongh settled in Israel. It was decided Sunday to appoint a full-time secretary for the Amsterdam congregation despite a considerable drop in membership.

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