Reports of the presence of Jews in Oss date to medieval times. It was not until the mid-eighteenth century, however, that an actual Jewish community took shape in the town. During the eighteenth century, Oss maintained a relatively tolerant policy toward the admission of Jews and even granted citizenship to a number of its Jewish residents.
Jews gathered for prayer in private homes in Oss beginning in 1764. In 1800, a building on the Varkensmarkt was rented to house a synagogue. This ramshackle synagogue was replaced with a new building, located on the Koornstraat, in 1831. During the 1880s, the Koornstraat synagogue was enlarged to include a school and community offices. The synagogue remained the center of Jewish life in Oss until the Second World War.
Jewish community officials in Oss included the members of the community directorate and a treasurer for the collection and disbursement of donations to the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. Jewish voluntary organizations included fellowships for the study of Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud; a burial society; a society providing care to the infirm; and a society for the upkeep of the synagogue. In later years, a theater society and a society for aiding and housing refugees were formed.
The oldest cemetery used by the Jewish community at Oss was located in nearby Geffen; it remained in use until 1909. A second cemetery was opened on the Heescheweg near Oss in 1888.
The Jews of Oss made important contributions to the emergence of the town as a manufacturing center as well as to the industrialization of the Netherlands. Well-known companies established at Oss by Jews included the margarine factory of Simon Van Den Bergh, the forerunner of the present-day multinational Unilever; the meat processing company Zwanenberg, the forerunner of present-day international pharmaceutical giant Organon; the meat processing company of Hartog Hartog, which eventually grew to become UNOX; and the Bergoss textile factory.
During the first decades of the twentieth century, members of several leading local Jewish families served on the town council of Oss. During the 1930s, the Jewish community of Oss provided material and moral support to Jewish refugees arriving in the Netherlands from Germany. Zionist youth organizations were also active in Oss at the time.
At the outset of the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, Organon shifted its ownership abroad and avoided confiscation. In the autumn of 1941, Jewish children were barred from public education and a regional Jewish school was established. The school remained open until February of 1943, despite declining enrollment due to the deportation of Jews to their death.
Most of the Jews of Oss were deported between August, 1942 and April, 1943. In June, 1944, just months before the liberation of the southern provinces of the Netherlands, the last group of elderly and infirm Jews was deported from Oss. Only a small number of the Jews of Oss deported during the war survived. A few local Jews also managed to come through the war in hiding. The synagogue and other buildings belonging to the Jewish community at Oss were plundered and heavily damaged by the Germans.
Although it was not possible to restore the synagogue after the war, its façade was preserved and declared a municipal monument. Later, a new synagogue on the Smalstraat was constructed and inaugurated in 1959. In 1960, a monument was unveiled on the Nieuwe Heescheweg in memory of the more than 300 Jews of Oss murdered by the Germans. Today, Oss is home to a small Jewish community. A branch of the Nederlandse Zionisten Bond (Union of Dutch Zionists) is active in the town. The Jewish cemetery is maintained by the local authorities.
The Jewish population of Oss and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time