Originally, Amsterdam's Portuguese Jewish community included Portuguese and Spanish Sephardic Jews from Antwerp (in today's Belgium) who fled that city and moved to Amsterdam in the early 1600s. By 1639, three groups of "Portuguese" Jews (it was politically incorrect at the time to admit to any Spanish blood) combined to create Talmud Torah, a Jewish community that thrived and grew in liberal Amsterdam and is now considered to be the Netherlands' oldest Jewish community.
In 1671, Elias Bouwman's design for the Portuguese Synagogue became a reality, an immense, beautiful building which somehow survived the ravages of World War II. Today, the synagogue looks much as it did during the 17th century, lacking heating and electricity and featuring a sand floor and an upper-level women's gallery.
Women sit on benches in this gallery, shielded from view by an openwork screen, during worship services. As you can see, they have a clear view of the Ark and the rest of the synagogue. I took this photo through the latticed screen, from the perspective of a woman sitting in the gallery.
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