A debenture from 1332 indicates that Jewish moneylenders were active in Lochem and its surroundings around that year. In 1665, mention is made of a Jewish resident converting to Christianity.
Several Jewish families settled permanently in Lochem during the eighteenth century. The heads of the families engaged in professions such as keeper of the Bank van Lening, meat butcher, glazier, and pawnbroker. Poor Jews were not allowed to settle there.
From the last quarter of the eighteenth century on, Lochem boasted an organized Jewish community that at first utilized a private home for religious services. In 1785, a building on the Hoogestraatje, near 't Ei, was purchased and furnished as a synagogue. In the same year, the city council approved the statutes of the Jewish community and purchased a cemetery next to the synagogue. This cemetery was in use until 1848. In that year, a new cemetery was purchased on the Zutphenseweg.
During the nineteenth century, the Jewish community grew. Initially, children attended public school and received Jewish lessons from their parents. When a new, larger synagogue was consecrated on the Westwal in 1865, a classroom and a residence for the religious teacher were also inaugurated there. The former synagogue was also used as a classroom.
Besides the church council and the council of churches, a treasurer for the Holy Land and a council for the poor were active in Lochem. Several societies engaged in Torah and Talmud study, funeral services and maintenance of the synagogue. There was also a women's society and a youth society.
By 1900, the Jewish community of Lochem had reached its largest size; during the 1930s its membership began to decline. During the German occupation, the first raid took place in Lochem in 1941, during which several men were arrested. Most of Lochem's Jews were deported and murdered in 1942 and 1943. A small number returned from the camps or managed to survive by going into hiding.
The synagogue remained intact during the occupation and was sold to the local authorities after the war. The building was restored and has been used as a cultural centre since 1993. A memorial stone on the outer wall keeps the memory of the murdered fellow Jews in memory.
The Jewish community of Lochem was merged into that of Borculo in 1947. Following the dissolution of Borculo, the Lochem community merged with that of Deventer. The Jewish cemetery dating from the eighteenth century has been cleared; the local authorities maintain the cemetery on the Zutphenseweg. In 2003, volunteers from the Stichting Boete en Verzoening (Foundation for Penance and Reconciliation) refurbished the gravestones in the Jewish cemetery.
The Jewish population of Lochem and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time