The first Jewish citizens of Gorinchem were registered late in the seventeenth century. An organized Jewish community existed at Gorinchem by 1787. At the time, local Jews gathered for prayer in a rented room. The community grew following the granting of full civil rights to the Jews of the Netherlands in 1796.
In 1814, the Gorinchem community purchased a former Lutheran church located at the Havendijk and, in 1817, reopened it as a synagogue. By 1837, the building had fallen into disrepair and was razed. A new synagogue, located on the Kweckelstraat, was inaugurated in 1842 and remained in use until World War II. A religious school was established adjacent to the synagogue.
The Jewish cemetery at Gorinchem, located on the present-day Willem de Vries Robbéweg, was probably already in use as early as 1796, although it was not officially purchased by the community until 1814.
The Jewish community at Gorinchem grew in size throughout the nineteenth century. At the time, most of the Jews in Gorinchem worked as retail traders. The number of Jews residing in Gorinchem reached its apogee in about 1900 and declined thereafter, falling by as much as two-thirds by 1930.
During the peak years of Jewish life in Gorinchem, the community maintained voluntary organizations including a burial society, a society for aiding the poor, a religious association, and a society for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue. A branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle was opened at Gorinchem late in the nineteenth century. In the years immediately preceding World War II, the community established a young people's society for theater and Jewish knowledge.
In January, 1941, early in the Second World War, Germans and members of the Dutch collaborationist NSB party vandalized the Gorinchem synagogue. Deportation of Jews from Gorinchem commenced in May of 1942, not long after the commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the community's synagogue. More than half the Jews of Gorinchem were deported and murdered during the war.
Only a few Jews returned to Gorinchem following the war. The synagogue was restored but was soon sold due to its small number of members. The building was razed in 1958. The Jewish community at Gorinchem was officially dissolved in 1964 and administratively merged into the Jewish community at Rotterdam.
In 1989, a monument to the memory of the seventy Jewish residents of Gorinchem deported and murdered during World War II was unveiled on the Blijenhoek. The monument - consisting of a marble menorah set against a stone wall - was restored and moved to a new location on the Melkpad during the mid-1990s. In 2000, a structure that had once housed the Gorinchem community's ritual bath was discovered during construction at the site of the former synagogue; the structure was left intact and moved several meters. The Jewish cemetery at Gorinchem was restored in 2000 and is currently maintained by the municipality.
The Jewish population of Gorinchem and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time