The first Jews settled in Ommen and the nearby town of Den Ham during the first half of the eighteenth century. Both places had Jewish cemeteries by mid-century; the oldest legible gravestone records the year 1747.
Ommen was officially recognized as a Jewish community around 1830; in 1853 it was granted Bijkerk status. The synagogue near the Varssenerpoort was consecrated in 1855; before then, religious services were held in a private home.
By then, the community had three cemeteries, one in Ommen on the Dr. A.C. van Raaltestraat, a small cemetery dating to 1840 on the Margeler Es in Den Ham, and a cemetery located on the Vroomshoopseweg in Den Ham. A small Jewish school existed in Ommen from the middle of the nineteenth century.
Most of the Jews of Ommen engaged in butchery and trade. A school for Jewish refugees from Germany was established by the Quakers at Eerde Castle near Ommen in 1934. There was a special department for agricultural training, in preparation for emigration to Palestine. Students from that school gained practical experience with Ommen farmers.
During the occupation, the Germans raided the Jewish school in 1941. Most pupils and teachers still managed to escape at the time. In November 1942, all the Jews of Ommen were deported to Westerbork, except for one family, which managed to go into hiding. The deportees were killed, most of them in Sobibor. During the occupation years, a penal camp for forced laborers was located near Ommen.
After the war, the synagogue was sold and demolished in 1951. The Jewish community was officially merged into that of Zwolle in 1947. The cemetery is maintained by local authorities in Ommen. A memorial to the murdered Jews of Ommen is located both at the Jewish cemetery on the Dr. A.C. van Raaltestraat and on the Varssenerplein, near the site where the synagogue once stood.
The Jewish cemetery in Den Ham was refurbished in February 2005.
The Jewish population of Ommen and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time