LEEUWARDEN, Netherlands — When Jacob Nathan de Leeuwe found himself returning nearly two decades ago from his home in a suburb of Amsterdam to this isolated idyll he calls “the end of the world,” it undoubtedly was the pull of his roots.
De Leeuwe’s family had lived in this semi-autonomous region in the northern Netherlands known as Friesland for 200 years, and a unique Jewish community with its own customs, traditions and even language had thrived here.
His mother was raised in Leeuwarden, Friesland’s capital, among 1,500 Jews concentrated in a Jewish quarter that had several kosher butcher shops, a kosher cafe and a Jewish education network going from kindergarten to high school.
But then the Nazis came and the Friesland community was wiped out. Today only 50 or so Jews remain in Leeuwarden among the approximately 650,000 people living in the region.