Virtual Jewish World: Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp is a Flemish city in Belgium, and is the capital of Antwerp province in the community of Flanders. With a population of 520,504, it is the most populous city proper in Belgium. Its metropolitan area houses around 1,200,000 people, coming in second behind Brussels.
Antwerp is on the River Scheldt, linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary. It is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Brussels, and about 15 kilometres (9 mi) from the Dutch border. The Port of Antwerp is one of the biggest in the world, ranking second in Europe and within the top 20 globally. Antwerp was also the place of the world's oldest stock exchange building, originally built in 1531 and re-built in 1872, it has been derelict since 1997.
Antwerp has long been an important city in the Low Countries, both economically and culturally, especially before the Spanish Fury (1576) in the Dutch Revolt. The inhabitants of Antwerp are nicknamed Sinjoren, after the Spanish honorific señor or French seigneur, "lord", referring to the Spanish noblemen who ruled the city in the 17th century. Today Antwerp is a major trade and cultural centre, and is the world's second most multi-cultural city (after Amsterdam) home to 170 nationalities. It is also known as "the diamond capital of the world" for its large diamond district. The city hosted the 1920 Summer Olympics.
Haifa was declared Antwerp's sister city in Israel in 1995.
After the Holocaust and the destruction of its many semi-assimilated Jews, Antwerp became a major centre for Orthodox Jews. At present, about 15,000 Haredi Jews, many of them Hasidic, live in Antwerp. The city has three official Jewish Congregations: Shomrei Hadass, headed by Rabbi Dovid Moishe Lieberman, Machsike Hadass, headed by Rabbi Sekkel Pollack of Brussels (formerly by Chief Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth) and the Portuguese Community Ben Moshe.
Antwerp has an extensive network of synagogues, shops, schools and organizations. Significant Hasidic movements in Antwerp include Pshevorsk, based in Antwerp, as well as branches of Satmar, Belz, Bobov, Ger, Skver, Klausenburg and several others. Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth, chief rabbi of the Machsike Hadas community, who died in 2003, was arguably one of the better known personalities to have been based in Antwerp. An attempt to have a street named after him has received the support of the Town Hall and is in the process of being implemented.
According to the American Association of Port Authorities, the port of Antwerp was the seventeenth largest (by tonnage) port in the world in 2005 and second only to Rotterdam in Europe. Importantly it handles high volumes of economically attractive general and project cargo, as well as bulk cargo. Antwerp's docklands, with five oil refineries, are home to a massive concentration of petrochemical industries, second only to the petrochemical cluster in Houston, Texas. Electricity generation is also an important activity, with four nuclear power plants at Doel, a conventional power station in Kallo, as well as several smaller combined cycle plants. There is a wind farm in the northern part of the port area. There are plans to extend this in the period 2014–2020. The old Belgian bluestone quays bordering the Scheldt for a distance of 5.6 km (3.5 mi) to the north and south of the city centre have been retained for their sentimental value and are used mainly by cruise ships and short sea shipping.
Antwerp's other great mainstay is the diamond trade that takes place largely within the diamond district. The city has four diamond bourses: the Diamond Club of Antwerp, the Beurs voor Diamanthandel, the Antwerpsche Diamantkring and the Vrije Diamanthandel. Since World War II families of the large Hasidic Jewish community have dominated Antwerp's diamond trading industry, although the last two decades have seen Indian and Maronite Christian from Lebanon and Armenian, traders become increasingly important. Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the successor to the Hoge Raad voor Diamant, plays an important role in setting standards, regulating professional ethics, training and promoting the interests of Antwerp as the capital of the diamond industry.
Antwerp, Belgium, Wikipedia, (January 23, 2017).