There was no organized Jewish community in Breda prior to the introduction of full civic equality in the Netherlands in 1796. Indeed, a municipal resolution of 1747 forbade Jews to even stop at Breda except during annual fairs and celebrations. The very same resolution did, however, provide for exceptions.
A small Jewish community arose in Breda early in the nineteenth century. At first, the community held religious services in a building named "De Blauwe Hand," located behind the Haagdijk. In 1823, the growing community obtained the right to bury its dead at a Jewish cemetery on the Vrachelse heath, established in 1810 by the Jews of the town of Oosterhout. When the Oosterhout community was later dissolved, the cemetery was taken over by the Jewish community of the town of Geertruidenberg. The Geertruidenberg was later merged into the Jewish community of Breda.
In 1845, the Breda community constructed a synagogue in the Schoolstraat. The community also had its own school. Voluntary organizations included a council to serve the poor, a society for assistance to the poor and infirm, and a women's society for the care of the synagogue. In the early years of the twentieth century, a society countering the aims of Zionism was founded. A Jewish literary and theatrical society was active during the 1920's. In 1900 a conflict within the community resulted in a schism that lasted until 1904.
By 1911, the Jewish population of Breda reached its peak. By that time, most of the Jews of Breda lived in the city's Haagdijk quarter and worked in sectors including trade, hat making, cigar making, the meat industry, and building demolition. In the early decades of the twentieth century, several Jews came to serve on Breda's city council. During the 1920s, the Kwatta Cocoa and Chocolate factory, owned by the Jewish Stokvis brothers, was the city's largest single employer.
During the German occupation of the Netherlands in the Second World War the same anti-Jewish measures were applied in Breda as elsewhere. In December, 1942, most of the Jews of Breda were deported to Nazi death camps. Few of them returned. A small group of Breda Jews, however, managed to go into hiding and escape deportation. In the surroundings of Breda, a total of eighty Jews successfully hid from the Germans, aided in part by resistance groups.
During the War, the Breda synagogue was damaged and plundered by Dutch Nazis, members of the NSB, the pro-Nazi Netherlands' National Socialist Party. Beginning in 1952, the remaining Jews of Breda gathered in a synagogue improvised in a room in a private home. In 1971, the community purchased a building on the Dr. van Mierlostraat and converted it into a synagogue. For most of the post-war period, the former synagogue on the Schoolstraat was used as a workplace. By 1992, it was restored and re-consecrated. Religious services are now held there regularly. The synagogue also houses a small library. Since 2002, the Schoolstraat synagogue is owned by the local orthodox community (NIG). In 1983, the Liberal (Reformed) Jewish community of the province of Brabant established its own synagogue in the nearby village of Terheijden.
The Jewish population of Breda and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time