In 1781, a single Jew resided in Heerenveen. Over the next ten years, the Jewish population of Hereveen grew to four families. In 1813, the Jews of Hereveen asked the central Jewish consistory for the province of Friesland at Leeuwarden for permission to hold synagogue services at the High Holidays. In 1817, the Jewish community at Heerenveen was granted independent status. In 1819, the community opened a synagogue located on the Heerenwal. Membership in the Heereveen community - which grew to include the districts of Haskerland, Schoterland, and a part of Weststellingwerf - reached its highest numbers during the 1870s. Thereafter, membership declined.
The Heerenveen synagogue was rebuilt in 1892 and was consecrated anew in 1893. Most of the Jews in Heerenveen lived either near the synagogue or along the Molenwijk canal and the alleyways surrounding it. The majority sold clothing or worked as butchers.
The oldest Jewish cemetery in Heerenveen - located in Veensluis at the border between the hamlets of 'T Veen en De Knipe - was in use between 1860 en 1880. In 1883, a donation from the Rothschild family enabled the community to purchase ground for a new cemetery in the village of Oranjewoud.
Voluntary organizations within the Heerenveen community included a men's society and a women's society; both probably were dedicated to caring for the sick and also served as burial societies. A second women's society cared for the upkeep of the interior of the synagogue and its accouterments.
The Jewish community of Heerenveen was merged into that of Sneek in 1933. The Heerenveen synagogue was razed in the very same year. A memorial plaque from the synagogue can be found in the local historical museum. Both Jewish cemeteries are now maintained by the local authorities. In 2000, Beth Ha-Tsafon, a Liberal (Reformed) Jewish Community in the north of the Netherlands, was founded at Heerenveen.
The Jewish population of Heerenveen and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time