Library Ets Haim – Livraria Montezinos, which is both a museum and a specialized library, is part of the specialized educational and research institute of the Portuguese-Jewish Seminary Ets Haim (Tree of Life). The library collections contain 30,000 printed works (from 1484 to the present day) and 500 manuscripts (from 1282 to the twentieth century). The specialization and theme focus mainly on the humanities: all aspects of Jewish studies and cultural history, and, in line with the humanist ideals of Northern Europe, the collections also reflect the universality of the human spirit, science and skills.
The collections are maintained at the Portuguese Synagogue complex in Amsterdam – one of the one hundred most important Dutch monuments - where they have been since the complex was built in 1675.
We can assert that these collections are of cultural and social importance to the Netherlands, as they reflect the cultural and social history of a community that contributed substantially to the rise of the Dutch Republic and the New World in the age of mercantilism. Additionally, its members were instrumental in ensuring the financial success of numerous Dutch national activities, not least those of the House of Orange.
The national relevance of the Ets Haim collections has been recognized by the Dutch government which included them in their entirety on the list of protected collections, in keeping with Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the Act for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Only two other entire libraries have been included on this list.
The European significance of the collections is reflected in their Sephardic Jewish scope. The culture of the Sephardic Jews in Spain was characterized by an open exchange with their initially Islamic and later Christian environment. By integrating without assimilating, Spanish Jews often acted as mediators in acquainting Christian Europe with the scientific achievements of the Islamic world. In this spirit, the curriculum of Ets Haim insisted on a thorough Jewish education in combination with an excellent knowledge of literature, philosophy, rhetoric and science. As such, this institute trained its students to take up leadership positions in the various Sephardic communities in Europe, America, notably in the Caribbean and New York, and North Africa. With an educational programme that combined a strong Jewish identity and a thorough knowledge of its non-Jewish environment, Ets Haim has made an important contribution to a society in which several religions coexisted peacefully.