Jews first settled in Smilde just prior to 1780. Their arrival met with the opposition of the local population, a problem that persisted into the 19th century. Local opposition went so far that, in 1806, the provincial authorities were compelled to intervene on behalf of local Jews.

The Jewish population of Smilde grew during the first half of the nineteenth century. An organized Jewish community was established at Smilde sometime prior to 1821. In 1825, the Smilde community was formally recognized by the Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (the central consistory of Dutch Jewry) as a Bijkerk or local community under the aegis of the regional Jewish community at Dwingeloo.

Jad geschonken aan de synagoge van Smilde door Mordechai Bloemendal

In 1846, a synagogue was built in Kloosterveen, one of the villages on the vast peat moors of Smilde. In 1848, the Smilde community purchased ground along the Drentse Hoofdvaart canal for use as a cemetery.

Official bodies within the Smilde community included a community council, a community directorate, and a treasurer for collecting and dispersing funds in aid of the Jews in Eretz Israel. The community provided Jewish education for its children. During the 1850s, an internal conflict divided the community for a short time. At the time, most of the Jews in Smilde worked in retail trade or as butchers. The Jews of Smilde were also active in the affairs of secular society in the provinces of Drenthe en Groningen.

The Jewish population of Smilde declined over the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first third of the twentieth. By the eve of the Second World War, the Smilde community had practically ceased to exist. Under the German occupation of the Netherlands during the war, almost all the Jews of Smilde were deported and murdered. The Smilde community's former Jewish school was converted into a private residence in 1943. The local synagogue was razed just after the war; the fate of its furnishings and appurtenances remains unknown. In 1950, the Jewish community at Smilde was merged into that at Assen. The local Jewish cemetery currently is maintained by the local authorities.

The Jewish population of Smilde and surroundings:

The size of the Jewish community over time