Just as in other countries, Jews also left traces (and still are leaving traces) in Belgium: The oldest trace is a gravestone in the Flemish city Tienen (French: Tirlemont) of a girl who was known as Rebecca, daughter of Mozes. She passed away in the Jewish year 5016 which corresponds with the Gregorian calendar as 1255-1256.
Other traces of Jewish life are to be found in:
- documents: from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution up until now, documents by occupiers of the country (decrees and edicts for the general population or against the Jews specifically), documents by resistance fighters, documents by Governments, documents by the Jewish communities, etc.
- chronicles like ‘Maagel Tov’ (see http://hebrewbooks.org/21838) by Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai who was also known as the Chida (1724 – 1 March 1806) , whose travels took him also to Belgium
I found it exciting to read about a project by some academics and the Belgian State Archives who have been working for some months on the compilation of a Guide to Archives related to Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium in the 19th-20th century. The makers of the guide intend to collect all details of all archival material from as many instances a possible such as the Belgian Government, local communities, Jewish communities, everything related to the holocaust, the alien archives (in which many Jewish immigrants can be found), pamphlets, poster, plans from synagogues, etc.
All these records are dispersed over different institutions which make it hard to do a full research on any subject pertaining to Belgian Jewry without having such a guide with an inventory. The group hopes to identify both the existing sources on Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium and it also hopes to track new and forgotten archive files. The new guide should hand historians an invaluable tool with which they can refine and broaden their analysis and knowledge. Moreover, it will not only appeal as a tool to professionals and academics, but also to the general public because the archives will be more accessible and appear less as a closed wall.
You can read more about this project in the magazine Science Connection n° 38 of the Belgian Science Policy Office (in Dutch: http://www.belspo.be/belspo/organisation/Publ/pub_ostc/sciencecon/38sc_nl.pdf, in French: http://www.belspo.be/belspo/organisation/Publ/pub_ostc/sciencecon/38sc_fr.pdf)
In the meantime, some of the good bibliographies I’d like to recommend are:
- Jacques Déom (red.), “Les Juifs en Belgique. Guide bibliographique”, Fondation de la Mémoire contemporaine, Bruxelles, 2008. p 140
- J.-P. SCHREIBER, “Joodse gemeenten, instellingen en organisaties”, in G. VANTHEMSCHE, P. VANEECKHOUT (red.), Bronnen voor de studie van het hedendaagse België (19de-20ste eeuw), Brussel, 2009, pp. 1129-1149 – (available online: www.kcgeschiedenis.be/pdf/bronnen/34JoodseGemeenteInstellingenOrganisaties.pdf)