Photo Credit: Israel Mizrahi

A nice find I had this week was a copy of the rare mahzor published in Amsterdam in 1726 for the Jews who had fled to the city from Spain and Portugal. Amsterdam’s Jewish community was unique in that it was originally founded nearly entirely by former crypto-Jews, known as Marranos, looking to escape the Inquisition.

In the late 16th century, with Dutch cities gaining independence and with it the ability of Jews to practice their religion openly, Amsterdam became a hub and destination for the Marranos looking practice Judaism in the open.


The result was a financially successful community, which made great contributions to the rise of the Dutch in commerce during this period. The community was unusual, though, in the large number of adults that grew up without a proper Jewish education, many of whom were unable read and recite the Hebrew prayers. The response was a flurry of printing in the Spanish and Portuguese languages, such as this prayerbook.

The prayerbook, titled Orden De Ros-Asanah Y Kipur [Prayers For New Year And Day Of Atonement], is entirely in Spanish, and while containing the entire liturgy for the High Holidays; it contains no Hebrew at all. This would have allowed even a newcomer to the community arriving from the Iberian Peninsula to join the prayers and understand the text, despite their lack of Hebrew proficiency.

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Israel Mizrahi is the owner of Mizrahi Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY, and He can be reached at [email protected].