Borculo was one of the first locations in the east of the Netherlands where Jews settled. Although exact details as to the founding of the community are lacking, reports indicate that Jews resided in Borculo and nearby Neede as early as the middle of the seventeenth century. The former Jewish cemetery on the Lange Wal dates from this period.
In 1820, the community inaugurated a new cemetery was on Deugenweerd near the Van Coevordenstraat. In 1842, the community built its first synagogue, located on the Weverstraat. Prior to then, religious services had been held in a private home.
The Jewish population of Borculo grew throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. At the same time, Borculo became known as a center of Jewish learning. During its heyday, the community also maintained a women's society, a society offering aid to the sick and dying, a burial society, a youth organization for the promotion of Jewish identity, and a theater society.
A number of Borculo's Jewish families played important roles in the town's industrialization. During the first decades of the twentieth century, several members of the Jewish community served on Borculo's town council.
In 1925, Borculo was struck by a hurricane. The Jewish school was destroyed but the synagogue was miraculously spared.
During the wartime occupation of the Netherlands the Jews of Borculo, like other European Jews, suffered under German anti-Jewish measures. In July of 1941, the synagogue was set ablaze by a Dutch Nazi sympathizer. The torah scrolls and other appurtenances were rescued from the flames but the building itself was badly damaged. An unusually high percentage - almost fifty percent - of the Jews of Borculo managed to survive the war in hiding. The other half was murdered in Nazi death camps.
From the end of the Second World War until 1980, when the Borculo community was absorbed into that of Winterswijk, the Jews of Borculo used a former school building as their synagogue. Borculo's Jewish cemetery was restored in 1989 and today is maintained by the municipality.
In 1997 a plaque in memory of Borculo Jews murdered during the war was unveiled in the ritual washing house of the cemetery. Presently, there are plans for a second plaque at the former synagogue. The former synagogue was purchased in 1999 by the Borculo Historical Society and in 2000 was donated to the Borculo Synagogue Foundation. In 2002, the Foundation also gained title to the former ritual bath located behind the synagogue. In 2008 the restoration of both synagogue and mikvah were finished. In October 2011 a Jewish Educational Museum opened its doors in the synagogue building.
As mentioned above, a Jewish community existed in Neede from the mid-eighteenth century. In 1813, the Neede community was officially merged with that of the town of Eibergen. By the twentieth century, only a number of Jewish families remained in Neede. During the early years of the Second World War, a dozen Jews from Neede succeeded in hiding in a nearby forest but were finally captured by the Germans in 1943.
From the mid-eighteenth century on, a number of Jews resided in the village of Ruurlo but attended synagogue in Borculo.
The Jewish population of Borculo and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time