Jews lived in Hengelo from the first half of the eighteenth century onward. The names of several Jewish families appear in a municipal birth register dating from the late 1730s. It is also known that a Jewish teacher lived in Hengelo during the 1740s. A Jewish cemetery was opened on the Dennebosweg in Hengelo in 1775. By 1813, the majority of Jews living in Hengelo were merchants, shopkeepers, and peddlers. Their average standard of living was not high.
The Jewish community at Hengelo was declared independent in about 1830. Religious services initially were held in a private home. In 1837, a wooden synagogue was built and consecrated in the Jansenstraat. In 1848, the wooden synagogue was replaced with one built of stone together with an attached school and ritual bath. At the time, the Hengelo community's synagogue council consisted of seven members. Voluntary organizations included a women's society, burial society, a charity fellowship, and a council for aid to the poor.
By 1883, the Jewish population of Hengelo had grown to the point that the community constructed a new synagogue on the Marktstraat. During the closing decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, the Jewish population of Hengelo went on to double. A theater society and Jewish youth organization were founded and Zionist activities began.
With the rise of industrialization, Jews played an important role in the development of the textile industry in Hengelo and the surrounding Twente region. In 1912, S. P. De Jong and the Van Dam brothers opened the Eerste Nederlandse Kantfabriek (First Netherlands Lace Factory) at Hengelo.
During the 1930s, a large number of Jewish refugees from Germany arrived in Hengelo. This caused the Jewish population of Hengelo to reach its zenith just prior to the outset of the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War. In August, 1941, the Hengelo synagogue was vandalized and damaged by the Germans and by Dutch members of the collaborationist NSB party. The contents of the synagogue had been removed and hidden beforehand. The first round-up of Jews for deportation from Hengelo took place in September, 1941. Large-scale deportations from Hengelo continued from the summer of 1942 on, in pace with the deportation of Jews from throughout the Netherlands. In all, more than half the Jews of Hengelo were deported; only a few returned alive. Many Jews were able to go into hiding in the surroundings of Hengelo.
Jewish life in Hengelo resumed after the war. The synagogue was repaired and was consecrated anew in 1951. In 1960, it was razed as part of the urban renewal of downtown Hengelo. A new synagogue was built on the Dorpsmatenstraat in 1966.
A monument was erected in the town hall in 2005. The monument consists of 6 triangles in which the names of all 167 victims of the war are engraved.
The Jewish population of Hengelo (Overijssel) and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time