Belgium Tourist Office issues Jewish heritage guide

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NEW YORK -- Belgium Jewish Heritage, a new brochure from the Belgian Tourist Office here, touches upon the country's history of Jewish immigration and provides a handy reference to its Jewish communities, notably in Antwerp and Brussels.

It is in those two cities where Belgium's Jewish population of about 42,000 is concentrated, with about 20,000 Jews in Brussels and 15,000 in Antwerp.

For both cities, the brochure lists the addresses and phone numbers of synagogues; kosher restaurants and stores; Jewish organizations, and culturally relevant attractions.

Those include the Belgian Jewish Museum and Museum of Jewish Moroccan Art in Brussels, and Antwerp's Diamond Museum and Diamondland showroom.

About 90% of Antwerp's Jewish inhabitants work in the diamond industry, according to the brochure.

Annette Choynacki, deputy director of the Belgian Tourist Office, said this is the first Jewish-interest brochure for the country as a whole.

Choynacki said the brochure is targeted at those with interest in their Jewish heritage "because we had Jewish immigration from all of Europe during various centuries."

In discussing Belgium's Jewish history, the brochure notes the waves of immigration in the 13th and 14th centuries by Jews expelled from England and France, and in the 15th century by Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. In the last century, the Jewish population of Belgium peaked at an estimated 65,000 by 1939, with the arrival of German refugees.

"Many Americans have families that transited through Belgium and do not realize that they still have connections there," she said.

For copies of the brochure, contact the Belgian Tourist Office at (212) 758-8130; fax: (212) 355-7675; e-mail: [email protected], or see the Web at www.visitbelgium.com.

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