The Belgian Jewish community currently numbers around 42,000 (out of a total population of 10.5 million), most of whom live either in Brussels or Antwerp, the two largest cities. Whereas Jews in the mainly French-speaking capital Brussels are mostly secular, the Dutch-speaking port city of Antwerp has Europe’s largest Hasidic community, including followers of the traditions of Belz, Ger, Czortkow, Lubavitch, Satmar and Vishnitz.
Belgium has 45 active synagogues, 30 of which, all Orthodox, are in Antwerp. Brussels has more than 10 synagogues, including two Reform congregations – one of them English speaking – and three Sephardic synagogues.
Whereas Antwerp has an abundance of kosher restaurants, food stores, and Jewish bookshops, such facilities are relatively sparse in Brussels, although there are two well attended community centers.
A Jewish Museum in central Brussels informs visitors about the history of Belgian Jewry.
Jews arrived in what is today Belgium when the Romans first settled the land over 2,000 years ago.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, a large number of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain also moved to the Low Countries. After 1713, Austrian rule in Belgium promoted a more open Jewish society, and there was also some Ashkenazi immigration. The status of Jews in Belgium improved under French and Dutch rule as well. In 1831, Belgium became an independent kingdom.
At the outset of World War II, more than 100,000 Jews were in Belgium, many of them refugees from central and eastern Europe who were hoping to reach the New World. Some managed to escape in this direction, but considerable numbers were still in Belgium when the Germans invaded. During four years of Nazi occupation, and with the help of Belgian collaborators, 25,631 Jews were assembled in the transit camp in Mechelen (Malines) and were deported to death camps; very few of them survived. However, there was popular resistance against the Nazis, and many Belgians hid Jews in their homes. Belgium was the only Nazi-occupied country in Europe where a transport to the death camps was halted and deportees had a chance to escape.
The communities of Brussels (20,000) and Antwerp (20,000) are the main centers of Belgian Jewry. Significantly smaller communities are located in Arlon, Liege, Mons, Ostende, Charleroi, and Ghent.
Total Jewish population: 42,000
The Comite de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique (CCOJB) is the community's umbrella organization.
The Antwerp community is traditional, tightly-knit, and features a large ultra-Orthodox element. As Brussels is the capital of the European Union, the Belgian community also takes a special interest in issues on the European level. In addition, the World Jewish Congress has a Brussels office, and the European Union of Jewish Students is headquartered there.
Belgium has 45 active synagogues, 30 of which, all Orthodox, are in Antwerp. A number of these also serve as houses of study for the ultra-Orthodox sects, which are present in the city. Indeed, Antwerp has one of the largest communities of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora-it includes Hasidic Jews who follow the traditions of Belz, Ger, Czortkow, Lubavitch, Satmar, and Vishnitz. The Antwerp community has it's own chief rabbi.
There are more than 10 synagogues in Brussels, including two Reform congregations – one of them English speaking – and three Sephardic synagogues. The chief rabbi of Belgium is appointed by the community and officiates at the country's main synagogue, La Régence, which was re-dedicated in 2008 as Great Synagogue of Europe. Both the chief rabbi and the main synagogue are funded by the government.
Brussels has two community centers which are well attended, the ‘Centre Communautaire Laïc Juif’ and the ‘Cercle Ben Gurion’.
A Jewish Museum in central Brussels informs visitors about the history of Belgian Jewry.
Whereas Antwerp has an abundance of kosher restaurants, food stores, and Jewish bookshops, such facilities are relatively sparse in Brussels.
There are more than 10 synagogues in Brussels, including two Reform congregations – one of them English speaking – and three Sephardic synagogues. The chief rabbi of Belgium is appointed by the community and officiates at the country's main synagogue, La Régence, which was re-dedicated in 2008 as Great Synagogue of Europe.
Van Spangenstraat 6
Tel: 32-3 231 94 48
Tel: 32-3 218 96 66
Beth Haknesset Machsike Hadass
Tel: 32-3 239 30 88
Beth Haknesset Portugueese
Tel: 32-3 232 53 99
Beth Haknesset Shomre Hadass
Van den Nestlei 2
Tel: 32-3 230 13 64
Tel: 32-3 218 83 85
J. Jacobstraat 22
Tel: 32-3 231 40 39
Tel: 32-3 239 51 02
Van Leriusstraat 54
Tel: 32-3 232 23 49
Tel: 32-3239 71 05
Chabad House of Antwerp
Tel: 32-3-218-4196 Fax: 32-3-218-6986
Daas Sholem - Shotz
Tel: 32-3281 51 71
Tel: 32-3230 43 00
Ant. Van Dijckstraat 43
Tel: 32-3218 92 18
Van Leriusstraat 38
Tel: 32-3232 55 11
Tel: 32-3230 57 87
Tel: 32-3218 41 96
Jacob Jacobsstratt 22
Tel: 32-3 233 55 67 Fax: 32-3 233 87 97
Moryah - Shomre Hadass
Tel: 32-3 232 01 87 Fax: 32-3 226 31 23
Or Shraga (Kolel)
Van Leriusstraat 22
Tel: 32-3231 71 97
Tel: 32-3230 74 54
56 rue Pige au Croly
Van Bunnenlaan 30
Rue Leon Fredericq 19
The constitutional recognition of minority religions means that the various levels of government welcome independent schooling systems and provide funding for religious schools. There are seven Jewish schools in Antwerp and three (never heard about the fourth one) in Brussels. The great majority of Jewish children in Antwerp are educated in the Jewish school system and receive an intensive religious education.
Nearly all Jewish children in Antwerp are educated in the Jewish school system, and they receive an intensive religious education. The Hasidic community has historically been closely associated with Antwerp's diamond trade, although over the last decades Indian and Armenian traders have also become increasingly important.
Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium (CCOJB)
68 Avenue Ducpetiaux
tel: 32 2 537 1691
fax: 32 2 539 2295
The CCOJB is the national affiliate of the WJC
Consistoire Central Israélite de Belgique (CCIB)
(Central Jewish Consistory of Belgium)
2, rue Joseph Dupont
tel: + 32 2 5122190
fax: + 32 2 5123578
FORUM: Der Joodse Organisaties
Lange Herentalsestraat 48
tel: +32 (0)3 231 58 48
fax: +32 (0)3 232 52 62
The Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels houses a collection of religious objects dating from the 16th century, as well as documents and books that illustrate traditional Jewish home life. In addition to objects that illustrate Jewish customs throughout Europe are a number of pieces, including textiles and silver, made in Belgium.
Jewish Museum of Belgium / Musée Juif de Belgique / Joods Museum van Belgie
21 Rue des Minimes,
B- 1000 Brussels
tel: +32 (0)2 512 19 63
Sun-Fri 10-5; closed Saturdays
The Jewish museum does not address the fate of Belgium's Jewish population during World War II; although there is a separate National Monument to the Jewish Martyrs of Belgium. The monument consists of a platform centering on a menorah made of chains and a wall bearing the names of 23,838 Belgian Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. The gardens surrounding the monument include a flowerbed in the shape of a Star of David. Close by is a smaller memorial to the Jews who fought in the Belgian Resistance, and there is also a small museum on site.
National Monument to the Jewish Martyrs of Belgium / Memorial National aux Martyres Juifs de Belgique / Nationale Gedenkteken der Joodse Martelaren van Belgie
Rue Emile Carpentier and Rue de Goujons,
B - 1070 Brussels
The former 'Caserne Dossin' transit camp in Mechelen has been restored as the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance
Belgium and Israel enjoy full diplomatic relations. Brussels is also the seat of the Israeli ambassador to the European Union.
Aliya: Since 1948, 4,000 Belgian Jews have emigrated to Israel.
40 Avenue de l'Observatoire
Tel. 32 2 373 5500
Fax 32 2 373 5617
Among the main publications of the Brussels community are Contact J and Regards, both in French. In Antwerp, the leading Jewish publication is Joods Actueel, in Dutch. Individual organizations also produce magazines addressing particular agendas, such as the Israel-focused publication, Le Fax de Jerusalem, and 'Los Muestros' which is dedicated to Sephardi culture. There are also several other publications in Yiddish. The Brussels community also boasts its own radio station, Radio Judaica.
The Brussels based European Jewish Press is the only online Jewish news agency in Europe.
There are 5 Jewish youth oraganisations in Belgium:
which co-operate together as 'Brit Hairgounim Hakhaloutsim'
For up to date information on Kosher restaurants and locations please see the Shamash Kosher Database
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