Jews had settled in Zutphen as early as the 1330s. Most likely, they had been attracted to the town because of its role at the time as an important commercial center. The persecution of Jews following the plague epidemic of 1348-1349 put an end to Jewish settlement in Zutphen. Except for the brief presence of a single Jewish doctor who resided in Zutphen from 1567 until 1569, there is no mention of Jews having lived in the town until 1796; although Jewish vendors had been permitted to sell their wares at local annual fairs.
Following the emancipation of Jews in 1796, a sizable Jewish community quickly developed at Zutphen. Most of the Jews to first settle in the town came from German. A Jewish cemetery was established in 1797 on a leased plot of land in the Hooge West neighborhood on the road to the settlement of Vierakker. The cemetery was expanded in 1883 and finally purchased by the community in 1896. The Zutphen community's first synagogue was located in the Nieuwstad neighborhood near the Eekmolen. The synagogue was consecrated in 1797.
In the early days of the Zutphen community most of its members were poor; the majority of Jewish bread winners worked as traders or butchers. As the community continued to grow, a new synagogue was required. Due to a lack of funds, construction of the new house of worship was not completed until 1815. The new synagogue was located in the Rosmolensteeg. It remained in use until the opening of the synagogue on the Dieserstraat in 1879.
The Jewish community at Zutphen was governed by a community council consisting of nine members plus a treasurer for the collection and disbursement of funds in support of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. Voluntary organizations included a burial society, a Torah study fellowship, a women's society for the organization of lectures and seminars, a women's organization for the maintenance of the furnishings of the synagogue, and societies for aiding the poor, the disabled, and orphans. The Jewish children of Zutphen received religious education at the community's Jewish school.
A fellowship for supporting Jewish settlement in Palestine existed in Zutphen in 1908. The Maatschappij tot Nut der Israëlieten in Nederland maintained a local branch at Zutphen. During the 1930s, Zionist organizations and Zionist youth movements also were active in the town.
Unlike many other Jewish communities in the Netherlands, the community at Zutphen did not substantially decline in size during the first third of the 20th century. During the 1930s, the arrival of several dozen Jewish refugees from German at Zutphen even led to a slight increase in the number of Jews living in the town.
During the World War II German occupation of the Netherlands, the Jews of Zutphen was subject to the same anti-Jewish measures as elsewhere in the country. Early in the war, a Jewish member was expelled from the town council and Jewish children were excluded from public education. A separate Jewish elementary school was established in Zutphen in September 1941. Deportation of Jews from Zutphen to the detention and transit camp at Westerbork commenced in November 1942 and continued until April 1943. From that point on, there were no more Jews in Zutphen; those who had not been deported had gone into hiding. Almost all of those who were deported were murdered in Nazi death camps.
The Zutphen synagogue was plundered by Dutch locals in 1944 and its interior destroyed. Fortunately, the synagogue's Torah scrolls had been hidden in advance and thus came through the war unharmed. Also in 1944, members of the Dutch collaborationist NSB party vandalized the local Jewish cemetery; many gravestones were pulled from the ground and removed from the cemetery.
Jewish life was reestablished at Zutphen after the war. A monument to the murdered Jews of Zutphen was erected in the Jewish cemetery in 1949. The synagogue building on the Dieserstraat was sold in 1948. Between 1954 and 1985, the Zutphen community gathered to pray in a home on the Coehoornsingel. The former Dieserstraat synagogue was restored in 1985. The upper floor of the building is now being used for synagogue services on special occasions. The original collection of silver ceremonial objects that once belonged to the synagogue was restored in 2004 on the occasion of the building's 125th anniversary. The Jewish cemetery at Zutphen presently is maintained by the municipality.
In 2000, the Jewish communities of Apeldoorn, Deventer, and Zutphen united to form the Joodse Gemeente Stedendriehoek (Urban Triangle Jewish Community). The Jews of Zutphen played a central role in the creation of the new community.
In October 2013 the cemetery was re-opened after restoration of the ritual washing house. The path leading here is now called Meijer Groenpad, named after the member of the board of the Jewish Community Zutphen.
Jewish population in Zutphen: