The first Jew to settle in Haaksbergen, a ritual slaughterer and trader, arrived in the village at the end of the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, more Jews arrived in Haaksbergen, despite the opposition of regional authorities. By the outset of the nineteenth century, the Jewish population of Haaksbergen had grown to more than fifty, most of whom lived in poverty.
Until the nineteenth century, the Jews of Haaksbergen gathered for prayer in private homes. In 1825, the community purchased ground on Morsinkhofsteeg on which to construct a synagogue. The newly built synagogue was inaugurated in 1828 despite objections from the Catholic community. At about the same time, the Haaksbergen Jewish community received independent status; prior to then, it had been attached to the Jewish community at nearby Goor. The Jewish cemetery on Goorsestraat in Haaksbergen was enlarged in 1867. The core of the cemetery dates to the 1740s.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, the majority of the Jews of Haaksbergen continued to work as traders and as ritual slaughters. A rag processing factory was established in the village by a Jew named Salomon Frankenhuis in 1885.
Organizations maintained by the Haaksbergen community included a community council, a combined burial society and Talmud study fellowship, and a women's association for the upkeep of the synagogue. The community's children received their Jewish education from a traveling teacher. In 1908, the community razed the Mikve located next to the synagogue and converted the adjacent school room into a new Mikve. From then on, Jewish religious lessons were held on the premises of the local public school.
The Jewish population of Haaksbergen peaked early in the twentieth century and then set into decline. The decline was partially offset during the 1930s by the arrival in Haaksbergen of Jewish refugees from Germany.
In 1941, under the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, approximately a third of the Jews in Haaksbergen were deported and murdered in Nazi death camps. The remaining two-thirds went into hiding, mostly with local Christians. The synagogue, along with most of its contents, came through the war unharmed.
Jews continued to reside in Haaksbergen during the post-war period but by 1967 the local Jewish population had shrunk to the point that synagogue services could no longer be held. As a result, the community was dissolved in 1972 and placed within the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Hengelo. The ritual bath was razed in 1978 but the synagogue itself was spared due to the initiative of a local committee specially formed to save it. The building was restored in 1982 and currently houses the synagogue of the Liberaal Joodse Gemeente Twente (Liberal Jewish Community of the Twente Region). The Jewish cemetery at Haaksbergen has been declared a national monument and has been maintained by the local authorities since 1991.
On the lawn next to the synagogue building is a statue commemorating Betsy Frankenhuis (1933-1942), the youngest Jewish holocaust victim in Haaksbergen. In 2012 next to the statue a plaque was placed with the names of the Jewish citizens of Haaksbergen, who were murdered during the German occupation.
The Jewish population of Haaksbergen and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time