Jews had lived in Tiel during the Middle Ages. At the end of the 16th century, Jews were expelled from the town on the order of the Spanish governor. During the mid-17th century, a single Jewish family arrived in Tiel anew; the family converted to Christianity in 1719. As the 18th century progressed, more Jewish families arrived in Tiel. The Jews of Tiel organized themselves into a community sometime around the outset of the 19th century.

In its early years, the Tiel community prayed in a number of rented rooms, one of which was located on the Westluidensestraat. An actual synagogue was consecrated in 1839 in an available space in the St. Agnietenstraat in the former cloister of St. Agnietenklooster.

The Tiel community purchased ground for a cemetery in the Zandwijk quarter of the town in 1828. Prior to then, the Jews of Tiel had buried their dead in nearby Culemborg and Buren. A second cemetery, located just behind the earlier one, was established in 1877.

Jacob Elburg, rabbijn en voorzanger in Tiel, ca. 1920-1940

Jacob Elburg, rabbi en hazan in Tiel, ca. 1920-1940


collection JHM, F001915

The children of the Tiel community received private religious education. A school for the poor was established in 1841 and provided with a new schoolhouse 10 years later. The community was governed by a board and council. Voluntary organizations included a burial society, a fellowship for the study of the Talmud, a charitable organization, a society for aiding the sick, and a society for the maintenance of the synagogue. For a time, the Tiel community also boasted a Jewish literary club.

The Jewish community at Tiel grew rapidly during the first half of the 19th century in pace with the overall economic development of the town. Soon, the Tiel community emerged as one of the largest in the province of Gelderland. By the outset of the 20th century, however, the Jewish population of Tiel began to decline. As World War II approached, the Tiel community had shrunk to a quarter of the maximum size it had reached during the mid-19th century.

During World War II, under the German occupation, the same anti-Jewish measures were enforced in Tiel as elsewhere in the Netherlands. Local non-Jews protested such measures several times. Regardless, approximately half the Jews of Tiel were deported and murdered. The rest manage to survive the war in hiding. The synagogue was vandalized by the Germans during the war and used as a storage house. Most of the synagogue's Torah scrolls were saved and after the war were presented to the Jewish community at Arnhem.

The synagogue building was sold during the postwar years and in 1976 was converted into a mosque. Several specifically Jewish decorative elements from the building were transferred to the regional museum De Groote Sociëteit in Tiel. A monument inscribed with the names of the Jews of Tiel murdered during the war was erected in the Jewish cemetery in 1950. The Jewish community at Tiel was formally disbanded in 1987 and merged into the community at Arnhem. A street named Het Jodenstraatje (The Jew's Street) in the center of Tiel recalls the once substantial Jewish presence in the town.

During the 19th century, several Jewish families resided in nearby Ophemert. At first, the Jews of Ophemert prayed in private homes and later, from 1875 until 1920, in a synagogue located on the dike along the river Waal. The small community maintained a women's society that cared for the interior of the synagogue.

A private Jewish cemetery in Geldermalsen, dating from 1885, was assigned to the Tiel community in 1935. The cemetery is now maintained by the local authorities in Geldermalsen.

The Jewish population of Tiel and surroundings:

The size of the Jewish community over time