Jews settled in Winschoten at the start of the second half of the 18th century. They soon formed an organized Jewish community that drew up statutes for approval in 1788. In 1797 a synagogue was consecrated on the Langestraat. Prior to then, religious services at been held in a locale on the Buiten Venne.
By the 19th century, the Jewish community at Winschoten had grown to the point that the town was second only to Amsterdam in terms of the percentage of its population that was Jewish. By 1850, the Winschoten community had outgrown its synagogue on the Langestraat. A new synagogue, located in the Bosstraat, was consecrated in 1854. Internal conflicts divided the community for a short time during the late 1850s but by 1860 the community was reunited.
A Jewish cemetery located on the Liefkensstraat was used by the community between 1786 en 1828 but the exact date of the establishment of the cemetery is unknown. After 1828, the community established a new cemetery in the Achteruit quarter (the present-day St. Vitusholt) just outside the town.
In 1900, the Winschoten community's Jewish school was relocated to a new building in the Bosstraat that also housed a meeting hall and an apartment for its teacher. At the time, the Winschoten community was governed by a seven-member board. Other bodies and officials of the community included a board for supervising aid to the poor and a treasurer for collecting and disbursing aid to the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. Local voluntary organizations included burial societies for men and women, several cultural societies, a religious fellowship, and a youth organization. The Maatschappij tot Nut van de Israëlieten maintained a branch at Winschoten.
During the 19th century, much of the Jewish population of Winschoten was poor. The economic situation of the Jews of Winschoten improved over the first decades of the 20th century. Many local Jews worked in the livestock trade and the meat industry, others in the tobacco industry. A large number of Jewish refugees from Germany settled in Winschoten during the 1930s most due to the proximity of Winschoten to the Dutch-German border crossing point at Nieuweschans.
During the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands, the Jews of Winschoten were subjected to the same discriminatory measures and treatment as Jews throughout the Netherlands. In September of 1941, a kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school were opened in Winschoten for Jewish children of the region following their expulsion from public schools. The Jewish schools remained in operation until February 1943. Between August, 1942 and the first months of 1943 almost all Jews living in Winschoten were arrested and sent to the detention and transit camp at Westerbork. From there, they were deported to Nazi death camps. Only a few of the Winschoten Jews who were deported returned alive after the war. A small number of local Jews managed to survive the war in hiding. The synagogue was plundered during the war but its Torah scrolls had been hidden in Amsterdam and were recovered after the war.
The Winschoten community's former synagogue and Jewish school building were sold soon after the war. For many years, the buildings served as a church of Vrijgemaakte Gereformeerde Gemeente (Independent Reformed Community). In 1995, the former synagogue building reopened as a gallery displaying home furnishings. The Jewish community at Winschoten was merged into that at Groningen in 1964. A square in Winschoten bears the name Israëlplein.
The Jewish cemetery at Winschoten is now maintained by the local authorities. A memorial stone near the cemetery's house for the ritual preparation of the dead commemorates local Jews murdered during the Second World War. In 1998, a plaque commemorating the murdered Jews of Winschoten was unveiled on the wall of a building on the Bosstraat that had once housed the local rabbinate. The building was restored in 2001. As part of the restoration, the former ritual bath on the ground floor was converted into a meeting and exhibition hall for use by local Jews.
A monument inscribed with the names of each of the Jews of Winschoten murdered during the war was unveiled in April 2005.
The Jewish population of Winschoten and surroundings:
The size of the Jewish community over time