Tolerant policies on the part of the city fathers of Schoonhoven enabled a Jewish community to take root in the town during the mid-eighteenth century.
During the early years of the Schoonhoven community, local Jews gathered to pray in a private home on the Nes. The ground next to the house was purchased in 1767 for use as a Jewish cemetery. The cemetery was enlarged a century later. The statutes of the Jewish community at Schoonhoven were formalized in 1789. In 1817, the community furnished an upstairs room in a house on the Kerkstraat to serve as its synagogue.
In 1823 the 17th-century house Brandenburg was purchased to be converted into a synagogue with a schoolroom. It was only in 1838 that this new synagogue was consecrated. A new façade was added in 1868, to be followed by a ritual bath in 1875.
During the 1860s, a conflict within the community led to a split. The dissident faction set up a separate synagogue in the Lopikerstraat but was denied permission to establish a cemetery of its own. The conflict soon was resolved and the community reunited.
Throughout the nineteenth century, most of the Jews in Schoonhoven worked as slaughterers and butchers. Smaller numbers dealt in gold, silver, and textiles. The local Jewish population fell into decline as the century came to a close. By the eve of the Second World War, the number of Jews still residing in Schoonhoven had fallen to the point that community activities practically ceased to exist.
Under the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War, all but two of the Jews living in Schoonhoven were deported and murdered. The two survivors escaped deportation and death by going into hiding. The interior of the synagogue was vandalized during the war but the building itself managed to come through the occupation unharmed. The Schoonhoven community's Torah scrolls were brought to Amsterdam early in the war and later were recovered.
The Jewish community at Schoonhoven was officially dissolved in 1947 and the location placed within the jurisdiction of the Jewish community at Rotterdam. The Schoonhoven synagogue was sold soon after the war. The building was set to a number of uses in the years that followed. Since 1983, it is home to the Edelambachthuys, a museum for the art of silversmithy. The Jewish cemetery (located between Wal and Nes streets) has been declared a municipal monument and is maintained by the local authorities. A plaque in memory of the Jews of Schoonhoven murdered during the Second World War was affixed to the wall of the cemetery in 1990.
The Jewish population of Schoonhoven and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time