Sonja Wood

Sonja Wood

Published: 20 Sep 2023


The Ets Haim Library is one of the hidden treasures of Amsterdam, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural and literary history of the Jewish community. This library, tucked away in the heart of the city, holds a collection of rare and valuable books that spans centuries. Stepping into the Ets Haim Library is like stepping back in time, surrounded by shelves filled with ancient manuscripts and historical artifacts.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the Ets Haim Library and uncover 12 extraordinary facts that make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and book lovers alike. From its status as the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world to its unique connection to the Amsterdam Synagogue, there are plenty of fascinating aspects to explore. So, let’s dive into the intriguing world of the Ets Haim Library and discover the secrets it holds within its hallowed halls.

Table of Contents

Ets Haim Library is one of the oldest functioning Jewish libraries in the world.

The Ets Haim Library, located in Amsterdam, Netherlands, holds the distinction of being one of the earliest operating Jewish libraries still in existence today. It dates back to the late 17th century and has a rich and storied history.

It is housed within the Portuguese Synagogue complex.

Situated within the sprawling complex of the Portuguese Synagogue, also known as the Esnoga, the Ets Haim Library occupies a prominent place within this historic religious institution. The library reflects the strong Jewish cultural heritage that has thrived in Amsterdam for centuries.

The library boasts a collection of over 30,000 books and manuscripts.

With its vast collection of books and manuscripts, the Ets Haim Library is a treasure trove for scholars, researchers, and anyone interested in Jewish history, culture, and religion. The impressive assortment of literary works covers a wide range of topics, including theology, philosophy, history, and linguistics.

It is home to rare and unique Hebrew and Portuguese Jewish texts.

Ets Haim Library houses a remarkable collection of rare Hebrew and Portuguese Jewish texts, some of which are extremely valuable and irreplaceable. These priceless manuscripts provide insights into the history and traditions of Jewish communities across the globe.

The library survived the Nazi occupation during World War II.

During the dark days of World War II, when Amsterdam was under Nazi occupation, the Ets Haim Library managed to escape destruction. The courageous efforts of librarians and volunteers, who clandestinely hid the valuable manuscripts in various locations, ensured the survival of this precious cultural heritage.

It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In recognition of its significant cultural and historical importance, the Ets Haim Library, along with the Portuguese Synagogue and other Jewish monuments in Amsterdam, has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This designation underscores the library’s global significance and its role in preserving Jewish heritage.

The library is open to the public for guided tours.

While the primary function of the Ets Haim Library is to serve scholars and researchers, it also welcomes visitors who are interested in delving into the rich Jewish history housed within its walls. Guided tours are available, providing an opportunity to explore this fascinating library and learn about its remarkable collection.

It has preserved rare editions of Jewish texts.

The Ets Haim Library takes great pride in safeguarding rare editions of Jewish texts. These editions offer a unique insight into the evolution of Jewish scholarship and provide a glimpse into the intellectual pursuits of the Jewish community throughout the centuries.

The library’s collection includes important works from Sephardic Jews.

As a repository for Jewish knowledge and culture, the Ets Haim Library showcases the contributions of Sephardic Jews, particularly those hailing from Portugal and Spain. The collection serves as a testament to the rich heritage of Sephardic Judaism and its influence on Jewish intellectualism.

It played a significant role in the preservation of Jewish culture in Amsterdam.

The Ets Haim Library has played an integral part in the preservation and dissemination of Jewish culture in Amsterdam. It has provided a haven for Jewish intellectualism, nourishing the minds of scholars and contributing to the vibrant Jewish community that thrives in the city.

The library has a team of dedicated conservators.

To ensure the longevity of its valuable collection, Ets Haim Library employs a team of dedicated conservators who work diligently to protect and preserve the manuscripts. Their expertise and care contribute to the ongoing preservation efforts, safeguarding the library’s historic treasures for future generations.

It serves as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the Jewish people.

Despite the many challenges faced throughout history, the existence and continued operation of the Ets Haim Library stand as a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the Jewish people. It is a symbol of their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage against all odds.


In conclusion, the Ets Haim Library is a truly extraordinary place that houses a rich collection of historical texts and documents. Not only is it the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world, but it also holds the honor of being included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. The library’s fascinating history, unique collection, and commitment to preserving and promoting knowledge make it a true gem for scholars, researchers, and anyone with a curiosity for the past.


1. What is the significance of the Ets Haim Library?

The Ets Haim Library is the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world and has been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. It holds immense historical and cultural significance.

2. What kind of texts and documents does the library house?

The library houses a vast collection of Jewish religious texts, books on various subjects, manuscripts, and historical documents relating to Jewish culture, history, and philosophy.

3. How is the library connected to the Amsterdam Synagogue?

The Ets Haim Library is located inside the Amsterdam Synagogue. It serves as both a place of worship and a repository of knowledge for the Jewish community.

4. Can anyone visit the Ets Haim Library?

Yes, the library is open to the public. However, due to the delicate nature of the collection, access to certain materials may require special permissions and appointments.

5. Can I borrow books from the library?

No, the books in the Ets Haim Library are not available for borrowing. They are precious and rare historical artifacts that must be preserved and protected.

6. Are there any guided tours available for visitors?

Yes, guided tours of the Ets Haim Library are available. These tours provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the library’s history, collection, and cultural significance.

7. How can I support the Ets Haim Library?

You can support the Ets Haim Library by making donations, becoming a member, or participating in fundraising events. By doing so, you contribute to the preservation and maintenance of this invaluable institution.