The first Jew to take an oath of loyalty to the city of Dordrecht did so in 1670. By 1700, three Jews had been granted membership in the merchants' guild. A surviving document from 1728 indicates the existence in Dordrecht of an organized Jewish community at the time. During the 1730s, the community purchased ground for a cemetery in the Wilgenbos, just outside of the Sluyspoort. In 1739, the community consecrated a synagogue in the former Mariaborn cloister.
Throughout the eighteenth century, the Jewish community was divided over and again by feuds and conflicts, a number of which required the intervention of Dordrecht's municipal authorities. The conflicts were symptomatic of the extreme poverty in which much of the community lived. During the Napoleonic period, the economic condition of the Jews of Dordrecht worsened, requiring many to seek public assistance.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the Dordrecht community grew and the economic situation improved. By 1856, the Jews of Dordrecht opened their own community center. The center, located on the Varkensmarkt, contained a synagogue, a school, and a room for other community activities. In 1871, the expansion of the city of Dordrecht led to the closing of the old cemetery and the purchase of ground for a new cemetery on the Achterweg (today, Nieuwe Weg) near the Dubbeldamseweg.
Voluntary organizations maintained by the Dordrecht community included a synagogue council, a society for aid to the poor, and two women's societies for the upkeep of the synagogue and the purchase of ceremonial objects. A number of other Jewish organizations provided care to orphans, the elderly, and refugees, and sponsored social and cultural activities. The community also maintained men's and women's societies for the study of Torah. During the 1920s and 1930s, a commission was founded to coordinate the activities of Dordrecht's Jewish organizations. Zionist activities arose during the same period.
During the Second World War, the Jews of Dordrecht suffered the same measures as Jews elsewhere in the Netherlands. Deportations commenced late in August 1942. Ultimately, the majority of the community was deported and murdered in Nazi death camps. Only a few Dordrecht Jews managed to avoid deportation and survive. The Germans also vandalized the interior of the Varkensmarkt synagogue. During the severe winter of 1944-1945, whatever wooden furnishings that remained in the synagogue were burnt as fuel. The community's Torah scrolls somehow survived the war.
The damaged synagogue building on the Varkensmarkt was sold in 1947 and razed in 1965. From the end of the war until 1987, religious services were held in a series of locations in Dordrecht. From 1987 on, the Dordrecht community was merged into that of Rotterdam and local religious services ceased. What remained of the old cemetery was cleared in 1958 and the remains of its dead were re-interred at the cemetery on the Nieuwe Weg. In 1996, the remains of a number of dead were discovered to still be present at the site and were disinterred and brought to the Jewish cemetery in Rotterdam. Ownership of the Nieuwe Weg cemetery was transferred to the municipality of Dordrecht in 1999. The municipality later restored the cemetery's house for the ritual washing of the dead. The restoration was completed in 2001 and the occasion was marked by the placement of a memorial plaque. In 1989, a monument to the murdered Jews of Dordrecht and Zwijndrecht was unveiled at the Dordrecht city hall. A book containing the names of Dordrecht Jews murdered by the Germans was published in 1999.
Today, approximately fifty Jewish residents of Dordrecht meet regularly as members of B'nei Dor.
The Jewish population of Amersfoort and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time