In 1614 the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam were finally able to secure land for a community cemetery. They had to go outside the city limits of Amsterdam—whose authorities had already twice denied their request, in 1606 and 1608—to Ouderkerk, a small village just a few miles south of the city. The road to Ouderkerk follows the course of the Amstel River, from which the city originally got its name, Amstelodam. The part of the city in which the Jews tended to reside, Vlooienburg, was right beside the river, and the Portuguese would move their recently departed upstream to Ouderkerk by barge.
On bicycle, the trip from what is now called the Jodenbreestraat—'Jews Broad Street'—to the cemetery takes about a half hour, if the wind is not against you. Heading away from the center of town down the main boulevard that once formed one of the central axes of the Jews' prosperous neighborhood, one passes Rembrandt's house and, at the end of the street, the magnificent synagogue that the expanding Talmud Torah congregation built for itself in 1675. After turning right and crossing to the far side of the Amstel over a bridge, a left turn puts you on a narrow road that hugs the river all the way to Ouderkerk. Spinoza, one of his early biographers tells us, left the city of Amsterdam soon after his eviction from the Sephardic community to live op de weg naar Ouwerkerk, 'on the way to Ouderkerk'; he may have been referring to a residence on this road. 1 It is a very scenic
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Publication information: Book title: Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind. Contributors: Steven Nadler - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 157.
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