A small number of Portuguese Jews settled in Maarssen during the seventeenth century. Some of them were involved in the raising of tobacco near Amersfoort. Others came to Maarssen with an eye to developing a local silk industry, a prospect they did not succeed in realizing.
Initially, the fledgling Portuguese community prayed in a suburban home built by one of its members along the river Vecht. In 1720, the Portuguese Jews of Maarssen opened a synagogue of their own, Neve Shalom, within the bounds of the town itself, this despite opposition from local Christian clergy. In 1749, the community purchased ground for a cemetery in the nearby village of Tienhoven. The Tienhoven cemetery remained in use until the twentieth century.
Ashkenazi Jews settled in Maarsseveen, just across the Vecht from Maarsen. They held religious services in a private home until 1759 when they received permission to construct a synagogue of their own on the Diependaalsedijk.
According to some accounts, at one point during the eighteenth century, the Jews of Maarssen and Maarseveen may have formed a majority of the local population, this at a time when they did not yet enjoy civil rights equal to those of non-Jews.
The Portuguese Jewish population of Maarssen began to decline in the middle of the eighteenth century. By 1839, the Portuguese community had virtually ceased to exist. Their synagogue was sold and razed in the very same year. The Askenazi population of Maarssen and Maarseveen set into slow decline beginning in 1789 when the nearby city of Utrecht was forced to open its gates to Jews seeking to reside there.
The Ashenazi community of Maarssen and Marseveen was finally merged into the Jewish community of Utrecht in 1923. The Askenazi synagogue at Maarssen-Marseveen was sold and razed in 1927. In 2002, the remains of a Mikva were discovered under a private home that had later been built on its site. A domed attic preserved until today in a building on the Breedstraat in Maarssen may have once housed a private synagogue used by Portuguese Jews.
The cemetery near Tienhoven, locally known as the Jodenbosje ("the Jews' Woods") is in poor condition. In 2004, the Provincial Foundation for Landscape Preservation put forth a plan for its restoration. In 1999, a plaque was installed in the public cemetery at the nearby village of Kamerik in memory of two Jewish women who had hidden from the Germans in the village but were later apprehended and murdered.
The Jewish population of Maarssen and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time