Jews began to settle in Leek early in the eighteenth century. The arrival of Jewish peddlers and livestock dealers from Germany during the second half of the century caused their numbers to rise. A Jewish cemetery, located on the present-day Roomsterstraatweg in the settlement of Diepswal near Leek, was in operation from 1783 on and was officially purchased by the Leek community in 1790.
In 1808, the Jews of Leek built a synagogue, located on Boveneind. The synagogue was consecrated in 1811. In 1911, exactly a century later, the Leek community built a new synagogue on the very same site. A Jewish school was also located on Boveneind. In Roden near Leek, two Jewish families held religious services at their homes for a time during the 1840s.
Official organizations within the Leek community included a synagogue directorate and a synagogue council. Voluntary organizations including a number of men's study fellowships and charitable organizations, a women's society that provided aid to the sick, and a social society for the unmarried. A choir was formed early in the twentieth century and a youth organization was founded just prior to the Second World War.
In 1905, an internal conflict created a schism within the Leek community. For a number of years thereafter there were two separate communities in Leek, each holding its own religious services. By 1910, the number of poor Jews in Leek had risen to the point that the community founded a shelter for the Jewish needy, including many elderly Jews.
During the Second World War, almost all the Jews of Leek were deported and murdered in Nazi death camps. Only a few Jews from Leek managed to survive the war in hiding. The synagogue's Torah scrolls were hidden in Amsterdam and the synagogue building and that of the Jewish school came through the war undamaged. Both buildings were put to new use after the war. The former Jewish school is now a protected monument and, since 1995, houses an educational center.
A plaque honors the deported and murdered Jews of Leek. The cemetery at Diepswal is maintained by the local authorities. In January 2006 some gravestones, broken and for years stored in the house for the ritual cleansing of the dead, were renovated and put back in the Diepswal cemetery.
In 1985, a monument was unveiled in the nearby village of Aduard bearing the names of Jewish residents murdered during the Second World War. The name of one of the village's streets is also dedicated to the memory of its vanished Jewish community.
The Jewish population of Leek and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time