In 1563, two Jewish doctors and their families were granted permission to reside in Hasselt, despite a royal decree of 1546 barring Jews from the Spanish Netherlands. Their sojourn was brief, they left Hasselt in 1570. There is evidence that a Jew was involved in a trial in Hasselt in the mid-seventeenth century. In 1720, the city fathers of Hasselt, in the hope of stimulating trade, offered Portuguese Jews the right of residence but none reacted. Soon after, however, a number of Ashkenazic Jews settled in Hasselt. From 1670 - 1700, a Jew was a leaseholder of the local lending bank.
In 1774, the town council provided the Jews of Hasselt with a plot of land outside the Veenepoort on which to bury their dead. In 1825, following the destruction of the cemetery by a flood, a new cemetery was established behind the Van Stolkpark on the Bolwerk. In 1802, a synagogue was consecrated in the Ridderstraat.
The Jewish community of Hasselt was poor. In 1813, most breadwinners worked as slaughterers or traders. Between 1820 and 1835, the economic situation of the Hasselt community was so bad that it lost its independence. A brief improvement of the situation during the late 1830s enabled the community to renovate its synagogue. In 1853, the community lost its independence once again but regained it anew twenty years later. The Hasselt community remained small until its demise in the Second World War. The community maintained two voluntary organizations: a burial society and a women's society for the upkeep of the synagogue.
Most of the Jews of Hasselt were deported and murdered during the war. A small number managed to survive in hiding. The synagogue was destroyed together with its contents, including ceremonial objects and Torah scrolls. The Hasselt community was officially dissolved and administratively merged with that of Zwolle in 1947. The cemetery is now maintained by the local authorities. A Hebrew inscription on a local war monument memorializes the murdered Jews of Hasselt.
The Jewish population of Hasselt and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time