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Jewish history in Belgium before and during the Middle Ages is not a happy one. In 1370, after the Black Death, the brutal Brussels Massacre wiped out the Belgian Jewish community. Jewish life did not flourish until the beginning of the 18th century, when Belgium became part of Austria, subsequently of France and the Netherlands. In 1830, when Belgium was granted independence, religious equality was established, and for first time Jews were able to have their own communal organization with a chief rabbinate in Brussels.

When the Allied armies entered Belgium in late 1944, they found 19,000 Jewish survivors. These were the remnants of a community numbering 100,000 before the Nazi occupation. Another 30,000 survived by escaping, being hidden by Belgian neighbors, or by having false documents. In 2006, there were about 31,000 Jews living in Belgium, mainly in Brussels and Antwerp. The majority of Antwerp Jews work in the diamond industry. It is the center of Orthodox Jewry, while Brussels Jewry is mostly non-Orthodox. The Zionist Federation of Belgium is the only organized Jewish body conducting cultural, educational, and social programs on a nationwide basis. The federation’s biweekly paper is the Tribune Sioniste, the only Jewish publication in Belgium.

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