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The Jewish Community of Mainz

Mainz

Yiddish: Magenca; French: Mayence; Hebrew: מגנצא

A city on the river Rhine. Mainz is the capital of Rheinland Pfalz, Germany.

21st Century

There is a rapidly growing Jewish community in Mainz. A new synagogue was constructed by the architect Manuel Herz in 2010 on the site of the one destroyed by the Nazis on the Progrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938). 
The Jewish population in Mainz is about 2,000 persons. Just over half are community members, and the rest unaffiliated.


History

Mainz is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. It is presumed that Jews came to the town as merchants in the roman era and may even have founded a settlement there. It is asserted that the renowned Kalonymus family moved from Lucca in Italy to Mainz at the request of Charlemagne in the 9th Century. Another assertion places their move to Mainz in 917. None of the above claims can be reliably corroborated.

In support of the claim that an organized Jewish community probably existed in Mainz in the tenth century, a report that a church council in Mainz declared in 906 that a man who killed a Jew out of malice must be made accountable like any other murderer. Archbishop Friedrich, the Catholic Archbishop of Mainz, (937-954) threatened the Jews with forcible conversion or expulsion, and limited their trade activities.

In 1012, after a priest had converted to Judaism, the Jews of Mainz were ordered by Emperor Heinrich II to convert to Christianity or be expelled from the city. The expelled were later allowed to return and continued to play an active part in the trade of the town, which was a commercial center on the Rhine. In 1080, many Jews fled Mainz in after being accused of starting a fire, in which their quarter was also damaged. They settled in Speyer and established the Jewish community there.

 

The Crusades

At the beginning of the First Crusade (1096), the Mainz community leader, Kalonymus ben Meshullam, secured an order from Emperor Heinrich IV protecting the Jews, in exchange for a considerable sum of money. About 1300 Jews gathered in the palace of Archbishop Ruthard, but the promise of protection was not kept. In May 28 1096, after a 2 day standoff, the gates were opened by the palace guards and the Crusaders entered the place. The Jews, who were armed, fought back as best they could, but were eventually overcome by the Crusaders. Over 1,000 died, some at the hands of the Crusaders and many by suicide as an act of martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”). Some of the Jews decided to accept conversion to Christianity to avoid certain death. Kalonymus ben Meshullam, in exchange for a hefty ransom, managed to escape with a group of about 60 of the community’s wealthy people to Rudesheim, but the group was captured the next morning by the mob, led by Count Emicho of Flonheim, and murdered. Kalonymus committed suicide. The synagogue (first mentioned in 1093) and most of the Jewish quarter were burned down.

12th Century Jews immortalized the Mainz martyrdom as an example of supreme sacrifice (“Akedah”). The chronicle of Solomon ben Simon recounts the martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”) of 1096, and claims that Mainz is the most ancient and famous Jewish community on the Rhine.

The community slowly recovered in the following years, after Emperor Heinrich IV permitted those forcibly converted to return to Judaism, decreeing that the Jews were also to enjoy the "King's Peace", first announced in Mainz, which  regulated jurisdictions for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

During the Second Crusade (1147), the Mainz Jewish community also suffered several casualties. During the Third Crusade (1189-92), the Jews of Mainz were unharmed thanks to the resolute protection of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, who proclaimed the “Great Imperial Peace”, which extended the original “King’s Peace” and applied it to the whole Empire.

 

Persecution

The Mainz Jews were ordered to wear the special identifying badges in 1259. In 1281 and 1283 numerous Jews were victims of blood libels. The synagogue was also burnt in those years.

In 1286, because of these repeated persecutions, some Jews of Mainz, along with those of other German cities, wished to emigrate to the Land of Israel under the leadership of Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg.

During the Black Death persecution, (1349) the whole community almost perished. Some died in a battle against the mob who blamed them for this epidemic, but the majority (around 3,000 souls) perished in the flames of their burning synagogue and the Jewish quarter, set on fire by their own hands in an act of martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”). In 1356, Jews began to resettle in Mainz. However, the community did not attain its former standing.

The Jewry taxes, granted to the town in 1295 and renewed in 1366, became increasingly more burdensome. In 1385 they presented the council with 3,000 gulden "out of gratitude" for its protection during the anti-Jewish disturbances which had broken out in various places.

A series of pogroms and expulsions occurred in 1438 (Destruction of the synagogue and cemetery), 1462 (expulsion) and 1473, when the synagogue was converted into a chapel, and the cemetery tombstones were taken and used for building.

 

Economy

Until the second half of the 12th century, the Jews conducted lively mercantile activities and from a very early date attended the Cologne fairs. From this period onward, money lending became increasingly important in Mainz, as in all German communities. Records of the 12th, and especially of the 13th century, often reveal that churches and monasteries owed money to Jews.

From 1286 until the end of the 14th century, the Jewish community was led by a so-called Judenbishop (nominated by the Archbishop) and by not less than four elders (Vorsteher) who together constituted the Judenrat ("Jews' council").

In 1390 Mainz Jewry suffered a great financial setback when the King of Bohemia, Emperor Wenceslaus IV, annulled debts owed to Jews.

 

Jewish Scholarship

A yeshiva was founded in the tenth century by the Kalonymides. It had become prominent under Rabbi Gershom ben Judah, known as Rabbenu Gershom Me’or Hagolah (“The light of the Diaspora”), and his pupils and contemporaries, Judah ha-Kohen, Jacob ben Yakar, Isaac ha-Levi, and Isaac ben Judah.

The regulations (“Takkanot”) established by Rabbenu Gershom, which were applicable to the three Rhenish cities (Mainz, Worm and Speyer), were acknowledged by all the other German Jewish communities and even by other European ones, thereby achieving the force of law, a fact which enhanced the reputation of Mainz. In Germany, Synodal Assemblies were held in Mainz (1150, 1223, 1245, 1307 and 1381), in which primarily representatives of the three leading communities (Mainz, Speyer and Worms) took part. Their rulings and resolutions, the “Takkanot Shum”, were acknowledged by the rest of the communities of Germany and beyond.

The Mainz Rabbi, Jacob ben Moses Moellin (1356- 1427), known as the Maharil, promulgated regulations (“Takkanot”), chiefly concerned with ritual matters, aimed at the German and primarily the Rheinish Jewish communities. His collection of practices (“Minhagim”), compiled by his pupil Zalman of St. Goar, which rely mainly on the Mainz traditions, are connected with all German and some non- German communities, and were used to a large extent in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim, the Code of Jewish Law.

Outstanding among the many notable scholars and personalities in medieval Mainz are, in addition to those already mentioned, Rabbi Nathan ben Machir ben Judah (c. 1100), Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan (c. 1150), Rabbi Meshullam ben Kalonymus (c. 1150), Rabbi Judah ben Kalonymus ben Moses (c. 1175), Rabbi Baruch ben Samuel (1200), and Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (1220-1293).

A number of scholars originated from Mainz in modern times too, notably Michael Creizenach, Issac Bernays, Joseph Derenburg, and Ludwig Bamberger. Bamberger was a leader of the 1848 revolution, and one of the main leaders of the German liberals (1823-1899). In 1933, Solomon Levi and Moses Bamberger were Rabbis of the mainstream and Orthodox communities, respectively.

 

The Modern Era

In the early modern era only a few isolated Jews lived in Mainz. These few were expelled in 1579, but a new community was reestablished in 1583, reinforced by emigration from Frankfurt, (1614), Worms (1615), and Hanau. A Rabbi was subsequently engaged in 1630 by endorsement of the government, and a synagogue built in 1639. Another synagogue was built in 1673, enlarged and renovated in 1717, and again in 1773. It was later converted to a community center.

During the French occupation (1644-1648), the Jews were subjected to ever-harsher restrictions.

Influenced by the Toleranzpatent (“Edict of Toleration”, extending religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the crown lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, issued by Emperor Joseph II (1781), the Archbishop-Elector improved the legal position of the Jews, and allowed them to open their own schools and attend general ones.

After the French Republic occupation of Mainz (1792), the Leibzoll ("body tax", a special toll which Jews had to pay in most of the European states in the Middle Ages and up to the beginning of the nineteenth century) was abolished.

On September 12 , 1798 the gates of the ghetto were torn down, and Jews began to acquire residences among the local population. Mainz Jews sent delegations to Napoleon’s Sanhedrin convention in 1806. In 1820 they were granted citizenship and in 1841 full equality as citizens of the French Republic.

In the mid-19th century, the community split when Rabbi Joseph Aub introduced ritual reforms, such as the use of an organ, in a newly built synagogue (1856). Marcus Lehmann founded a Jewish school (a high school with instruction in foreign languages) in 1859. Until the Prussian law of 1876 regulating secession from religious communities, the orthodox remained within the community and seceded only later.

Orthodox Jews, who objected to the Reform practices, founded a meeting place for their own congregation on the corner of Flachsmarkt and Margarethenstrasse. Renovated in 1879, this synagogue was enlarged to accommodate 300 worshipers. Eastern European Jews conducted services in a prayer hall at 13 Margarethenstrasse (established in the 1880s). Then the mainstream community inaugurated a new synagogue on Hindenburgstrasse in 1913, with 580 seats for men and 482 for women. Finally, in 1929, the Orthodox congregation opened another new synagogue.

In the 19th Century the Jewish population of Mainz increased, and in the 20th Century it declined. In the 20th Century its percentage of the general population also declined:

2,665 (5.8%) in 1861
2,998 (5.8%) in 1871
3,104 (3.7%) in 1900
2,738 (2.5%) in 1925 
2,730 (1.8%) in 1933

 

The Holocaust

On November 9, 1938 (the “Kristallnacht” pogroms) the mainstream community’s synagogue (including the museum and library) was looted and burned down. The interior of the Orthodox synagogue was destroyed, but the ensuing fire was extinguished. The Eastern Europeans’ prayer hall was destroyed and looted. 1 local Jew was killed, two committed suicide and 60 Jewish men were deported to Buchenwald. On May 17’ 1939 only 1,452 Jews remained.The Orthodox synagogue was demolished in 1939/40, after which services took place in the community center (2, Forsterstrasse), until the deportations. The steady flow of emigrants was partly balanced by an influx of refugees from the countryside.

In March and September of 1942, the majority of the community was deported to Poland and Theresienstadt concentration camp, and on February 10, 1943 the remaining Jews suffered the same fate. Between 1,300 and 1,400 Mainz Jews perished in the Holocaust. 

 

Postwar

The Mainz Jewish community was reestablished by survivors in October 1945, and a synagogue was opened in 1947. In 1952 that synagogue was moved to the Forsterstrasse building, which had been returned to the community. The synagogue was renovated and enlarged in 1966, and a government office was built on the site of the mainstream community’s destroyed house of worship. In 1988, several of its original pillars were converted into a memorial.The Jewish community of Mainz grew from 80 persons in 1948 to 122 in 1970.

Place Type:
City
ID Number:
120517
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, as grandson of Abun, who came from Le Mans, France. He lived before 950. Simeon bar Isaac was considered a great expert on prayers and piyyutim and on customs in general. Simeon wrote yotserot, kerovot, selihot, hymns and Rashuyyot le-Hatanim. His piyyutim are included in mahzorim of the French and German Jewish rites.
Rabbinic authority

Born into a prestigious rabbinic family in Mainz, he studied first with his father, then with noted rabbis in Vienna where he was ordained, with the additional scholarly title of distinction Morenu. He succeeded his father as rabbi of Mainz in 1387 and established there a talmudic academy, many of whose students became the leading rabbis of Central Europe. As an outstanding scholar, he was sought by Jews throughout Europe with their queries in religious law. His responsa reflected the religious and social life of his time and showed a respect for existing custom. Moelln was a poet of liturgical verse (piyyutim) and a renowned cantor whose melodies were to be heard in communal worship in Mainz until modern times.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he was probably the son of Rabbi Meshullam, a scholar who lived in Mainz in 1034. On February 19, 1090, David Ben Meshullam, together with Judah Ben Kalonymus and Moshe Ben Jekuthiel, was received by Emperor Henry IV as representative of the Jewish community.
He composed a selihah for the eve of the Day of Atonement which begins with Elohim al Domi le-Dami (God! Be Not Silent on My Blood). The work is still used in German and Polish rituals, yet the original text, which described the horrors of the First Crusade, was changed by censorship. He died in Speyer, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.
MAINZER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The family name Mainzer is derived from Mainz on the Rhine, western Germany, one of the most ancient sites of Jewish settlement in Ashkenaz (Franco-Germany). Jews were settled there since the year 900 CE. Numerous Jewish family names derive from this source, ranging from Minz(t), Mints, Minc, to Muenz and Muenzer (literally "minter" in German). The suffix "-er" in the name Mainzeris the German for "from" Mainz. It is possible that some of these variants indicate origin from one of two towns called Minsk, one the capital city of White Russia, today Belarus, where Jews lived since the 15th century, the other a town in east-central Poland (Minsk Mazowieckie) where Jews lived since at least the 18th century.

LANGGASSER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birthplace, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

This name is derived from Langgasse, a central street in the city of Mainz, Germany. First Jewish presence in Mainz is documented in the 10th century, one of the oldest in the German-speaking world. Places, regions and countries of origin or residence are some of the sources of Jewish family names. But, unless the family has reliable records, names based on toponymics cannot prove the exact origin of the family.

Langgässer is documented as a Jewish family name with Heinrich Langgässer (1813-1886) of Mainz, Germany.

Mrs. Nannchen Aschelbacher,
Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, 1906
Photo: Samson & Co. , Mainz
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Hava Gelman, Israel)
Jewish cemetery in Mainz, Germany, WWI
Photo taken by the German Army during W.W.I.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Polska Akademia Nauk, Warsaw)
Tombstone of Rabbi Mesullam b. Kalonymos,
Mainz, Germany, c. 1020
(From the Beit Hatfutsot Photo Exhibition: "The Jews of Germany, From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic", 1984)
Rabbinic authority

Born into a prestigious rabbinic family in Mainz, he studied first with his father, then with noted rabbis in Vienna where he was ordained, with the additional scholarly title of distinction Morenu. He succeeded his father as rabbi of Mainz in 1387 and established there a talmudic academy, many of whose students became the leading rabbis of Central Europe. As an outstanding scholar, he was sought by Jews throughout Europe with their queries in religious law. His responsa reflected the religious and social life of his time and showed a respect for existing custom. Moelln was a poet of liturgical verse (piyyutim) and a renowned cantor whose melodies were to be heard in communal worship in Mainz until modern times.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, as grandson of Abun, who came from Le Mans, France. He lived before 950. Simeon bar Isaac was considered a great expert on prayers and piyyutim and on customs in general. Simeon wrote yotserot, kerovot, selihot, hymns and Rashuyyot le-Hatanim. His piyyutim are included in mahzorim of the French and German Jewish rites.
Rabbinical authority

He may have been born in Metz but was chiefly associated with Mainz. Those of his liturgical poems that have been preserved reflect the troubled experience of Rhineland Jewry of his days. One of them refers to the persecution and expulsion from Mainz in 1012. His talmudic academy in Mainz attracted students from many countries and he was one of the first rabbinic scholars to bring the rabbinic scholarship of the academies of Eretz Israel and Babylonia to western Europe, being commonly called Meor ha-Gola - the Luminary of the Diaspora. Gershom made important contributions to establishing the text of the Talmud which previously was only known in northern Europe in an unsatisfactory version. He copied out the entire Mishna and Talmud basing himself on the best manuscripts he could find. He is best known for a series of ordinances (takkanot) he issued that greatly influenced medieval Jewry. His ban on polygamy became accepted throughout the Ashkenazi and much of the non-Ashkenazi world.
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.

Rashi (Rabbi Shelomo Yitzhaki) (1040-1105), commentator on the Bible and Talmud, born in Troyes, France, and received his early education in Worms. An addition to the Worms synagogue is called the Rashi chapel and is thought of as his traditional place of study although it was constructed centuries later. He continued his studies in Mainz and then returned to Troyes where he founded his own talmudic academy and earned his living as a vintner. Many students flocked to study with him. His commentaries on the Bible and Talmud remain standard to this day and have proved an indispensable key to their understanding. Centuries of students have studied these basic works "with Rashi's commentary" noted for their lucidity and conciseness. Rashi also wrote many responsa, which were accepted as authoritative. His own family - including sons-in-law and grandchildren - were great scholars who continued his work, founding the school of talmudic commentators known as the tosafists (writers of super commentaries on Rashi).

Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he was probably the son of Rabbi Meshullam, a scholar who lived in Mainz in 1034. On February 19, 1090, David Ben Meshullam, together with Judah Ben Kalonymus and Moshe Ben Jekuthiel, was received by Emperor Henry IV as representative of the Jewish community.
He composed a selihah for the eve of the Day of Atonement which begins with Elohim al Domi le-Dami (God! Be Not Silent on My Blood). The work is still used in German and Polish rituals, yet the original text, which described the horrors of the First Crusade, was changed by censorship. He died in Speyer, Germany.
Creizenach, Michael (1789-1842) German Jewish educator and theologian, a representative of the generation after Moses (Moshe) Mendelsssohn. He initially received a traditional Talmudic education and began to acquire secular knowledge from the age of 16. He studied mathematics, wrote textbooks on it and became a private tutor. As a result of his pressure a Jewish school was opened in Mainz, Germany, which he conducted according to the principles of Reform Judaism. The school closed after a short time. In 1825 he was appointed a teacher at the Philanthropin, the modern Hebrew High School in Frankfurt am Main, established in 1804. Religious services with Reform orientation were held regularly in the school hall and they attracted many worshippers. An annual boys' confirmation service was held there.

Creizenach's books were devoted to the advocacy of a reform of rabbinic Judaism. He wrote a "Shulchan Aruch" in which he tried to show that it was not possible to live absolutely according to the Talmud and that a some sort of compromise was needed whereby modern ideas would be applied. However, towards the end of his life he abandoned this view. He was deeply interested in Hebrew literature and in the last two years of his life he was the co-editor of a Hebrew magazine, "Zion".

His works included "Versuch über die Parallellentheorie", Mainz, (1822), "Heshbon ha-Nefesh, oder Selbstprüfung des Israeliten Während der Busstage", Frankfur am Main (1838), "32 Thesen über den Talmud" (1831), and "Lehrbuch der Technischen Geometrie" (1828).
Coshel, Meyer Moses (1822-1920), locksmith, born in Wintzenheim, Alsace, France, into a poor family. His ancestors has been wealthy and important members of the Alsace Jewish community, but his father Heymann Haim Avraham (1783-1856) had fallen on hard times and was employed as a coachman’s assistant. Nevertheless, records show that he never fell behind in paying the melamed who taught his children.

Moses Coschel was apprenticed to his uncle Leon, a locksmith, at age 13. After four years he had learnt the trade and was considered a qualified worker.

To become a master locksmith, however, he had to prove initiative and had to acquire more experience in special locks. To do this he borrowed his father’s old horse and decided to travel alone to Mainz in Germany, a distance of some 250km, where his uncle Isaac had run an inn. Has uncle had died and the inn was currently managed by his widow. The journey took him over one year. On the way he stopped in Landau, Germersheim, Hoffnung, Grunstadt, Gunersblum, Worms and Openheim. In each place he worked for a while at his trade in order to improve his skills with different types of locks. When in 1840 he finally arrived in Mainz he was warmly welcomed by his aunt who gave him a room, food and even clothing. He then found employment in Mainz as a master locksmith and earned enough to look after himself and even to send money to his parents to pay for the old horse which had since died. After a while father Heymann wrote letters urging him to return home and he indeed soon started out on his return journey. In the village of Guebwiller, some 20km from his native village, he was offered a position as a master technician in a factory which produced textile machinery.
It was not easy for Moses Coschel, a pious Jew, to keep Shabat and other Jewish traditions in Guebwiller. Work at the factory started at 6am when it was still dark in winter so it was not possible to say his morning prayers and wear teffilin before he went to work. He therefore waited until the 8am meal break when he was able to find a corner in the factory where he could pray, often under the mocking glares of his work colleagues. He wrote to his parents that it was not easy simple for him but he succeeded in remaining religious Jew as well as carrying out his work to the satisfaction of his employer. Once his employer gave him a complicated task on Friday afternoon a few minutes before the beginning of Shabat. He reported to his parents that he did not carry out the instruction, but went home in time for the commencement of Shabat. Another worker did the job instead of him. Moses Coschel was supporting a wife and five children.

Worms

A city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany,


Documentary evidence points to the settlement of Jews in Worms at the end of the 10th century. The community grew during the 11th century, and a synagogue was inaugurated in 1034. In 1076-1077 there was already a Jewish cemetery, which has been preserved and is the oldest in Europe. Around 1090 the king granted to the Jews of Worms a charter of privileges similar in most respects to the charter granted to the Jews of Speyer. The Jews of Worms were granted freedom to travel without restriction throughout the kingdom and engage in commerce without paying customs duties; they were authorized to function as moneychangers, and could hire Christian workmen, wet-nurses, and maidservants. It was forbidden to convert their children forcibly to Christianity, and a Jew who converted lost his share in his father's property. In litigation between Jews and Christians, each party was entitled to be judged by its religious laws. The Jews of Worms were directly subordinate to the king and enjoyed a great deal of independence in electing the heads of the public.

A number of distinguished scholars were active in Worms: Baruch, a disciple of R. Gershom B. Judah and a prominent halakhic authority; the hymnologist Meir B. Isaac; Jacob B. Yakar and Isaac B. Eleazar, teachers of Rashi during his stay in Worms; and Kalonymus B. Shabbetai of Rome. Unlike Magnesian scholars, rabbis in Worms were also engaged in the interpretation of the Bible and the Midrashim and the Piyutim.

This flourishing period was interrupted by the persecutions of the First Crusade that took place in May 1096. The Crusaders, drawn from the simple townfolk and the peasants of the surrounding villages, attacked the Jews in Worms. Some of them were killed in their homes or took their own lives, while others found refuge in the palace of the bishop until they were overwhelmed and massacred or chose to kill their children and then themselves. The number of martyrs reached 800. Only a few saved themselves by accepting baptism, but in the following year Emperor Henry IV allowed them to return to Judaism. After a short while a new community was established in Worms, and in 1112 Emperor Henry V renewed the customs exemption which his father had granted to the Jews of the town. In the meantime, Jewish was replaced by moneylending. At the time of the Second Crusade in 1146, the Jews of Worms fled to fortresses in the surrounding region until the danger had passed. Subsequently the community grew in numbers.

During the 13th century the bishop assumed jurisdiction over the Jews in lawsuits with Christians, as well as in cases of criminal law. He also collected a tax from them, in addition to that imposed by the king. The Jews received the protection of the municipal council and were obligated in return to defend the town in case of attack. During the siege of Worms, in 1201, the Jews took part in its defense. In January 1348, Charles IV waived all the royal rights over the Jews of Worms in favor of the town. The community was led by 12 elected parnasim. The bishop of Worms appointed one of them "bishop of the Jews" for life. The last "bishop of the Jews" died in 1792.

The scholars of Worms took part in the Rabbinical Synods which were convened in the Rhineland, as well as in the drafting of communal regulations for the three communities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz which had wide-ranging influence on Ashkenazi Jewry. The most important halakhic authorities of Worms in the period were the paytan Menahem B. Jacob; Eleazar B. Judah, disciple of Judah he-Chasid ("the pious"), the author of Sefer ha-Roke'ach; and Baruch B. Meir and his son Meir of Rothenburg (presiding judge (אב-בית-דין) of Worms; d. 1281).

On second Adar 10, 5109 (1349), at the time of the Black Death, anti-Jewish disorders broke out in Worms. Some Jews managed to escape to Sinsheim, Heidelberg, and other localities; all the other members of the community set fire to themselves in their homes or were massacred by rioters.

The property of the Jews was confiscated by the town, but the latter was also compelled to pay assignments which the king had granted to several of his creditors on account of the tax which was due to him. The local authorities therefore considered it advantageous to authorize the settlement of the Jews in the town once more (1353-1355).

This third community fixed the day of Adar 10 as a perpetual feast day. The new community did not acquire the splendor of the past. An uprising of craftsmen in 1615 caused the Jews to flee from the town; the synagogue and the cemetery were desecrated. In 1616 the uprising was subdued by the governor, and the Jews returned to Worms. The first parnas of the renewed community was David Joshua Oppenheim, who in 1624 built the bet midrash attributed to Rashi.

Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer were born in Worms. In the second half of the 17th century Moshe Samson Bachrah served as a rabbi in Worms. Yiftach Yosef described the magnificent past of the community in his book Miracle of Miracles.

Ten years after Worms had been set on fire by the French, in 1689, the community of Worms was again reconstituted. During the 18th and 19th centuries Worms no longer ranked among the important communities of Germany, even though it was still renowned and remained attached to its ancient customs. During the 19th century there were about 800 Jews living in the town. They were granted civic rights along with the Jews of Hesse, and in 1848 a Jew was elected mayor of Worms.

The Holocaust Period

On the eve of the rise of the Nazis to power, in 1933, there were 1,016 Jews living in Worms. Many Jews emigrated following the boycott of Jewish goods and other forms of harassment. A concentration camp was set up in the vicinity of the town. Nazi persecution stimulated communal activity in the sphere of Jewish adult education, and after the expulsion of Jewish children from the public school a Jewish school was founded in Worms in 1936. The ancient synagogue and the bet midrash of Rashi were destroyed on Pogrom Night, November 9-10, 1938. Ninety-seven Jews were taken to concentration camps. By May 1939 only 316 Jews remained in Worms. During World War II in 1941-1942 the remaining Jews in Worms were deported to concentration camps and few survived.

After the end of the war some isolated Jews settled in Worms, but the community was not reorganized. The German authorities rebuilt the synagogue and the bet midrash from their ruins (1961), and preserved the ancient cemetery. The archives of the community of Worms of 1522 were sent to the general archives of Jewish history in Jerusalem.

Speyer 

In French: Spire; Eng. sometimes Spires

A city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. 

Although local traditions, mainly legendary, speak of Jewish settlement in Speyer in Roman times, Jews probably first came to the town in the early 11th century. Documentary evidence for a Jewish settlement in the town dates only from 1084. At that time Jews fled from Mainz for fear of persecution because of a fire they were accused of having caused. The Bishop Ruediger allotted them a special residential quarter and gave them a plot from church lands to be used as a cemetery. They were also allowed to build a protective wall around their quarter. Bishop Ruediger granted them unrestricted freedom of trade and considerable autonomy. The Jews were also expressly allowed to sell to Christians meat which was ritually unclean for Jews, and they did not have to pay any duties or tolls when entering or leaving the town. They were also given permission to employ Christian servants.. By 1096 a synagogue had been built. The Jewish community of Speyer was one of the first Rhine communities to suffer during the first crusade. On a Sabbath, the eighth of Iyyar (May 3, 1096) a mob of crusaders surrounded the synagogue intent upon attacking the community  while all were gathered in one spot. Forewarned, the Jews had concluded their service early and fled to their homes. Nevertheless, ten Jews were caught outside their homes and killed. When Bishop John heard of what occurred, he came to the defense of the Jews with his militia, prevented further bloodshed, and punished some of the murderers.

The community grew and prospered during the 12th century; its economic position was excellent, and it established itself as a center of Torah. Among the scholars of Speyer in this period were Eliakim B. Meshullam ha-Levi, a student of Isaac B. Judah of Mainz; Kalonymus B. Isaac, known as a mystic as well as a Talmudist; Isaac B. Asher ha-Levi; Jacob B. Isaac ha-Levi, a German Tosafist and author of a dirge on the crusade period; Samuel B. Kalonymus he-Chasid; Shemariah B. Mordecai, a correspondent of R. Jacob Tam and a great Talmudic authority; Meir B. Kalonymus, the author of a commentary to the Sifra, Sifrei, and Mekhilta; and Judah B. Kalonymus B. Meir, the author of a Talmudic lexicon, Yichusei Tanna'im ve-Amora'im.

In 1195, after severe persecutions following a blood libel, Emperor Henry VI demanded that the Jews be compensated for damages and that the burned synagogue and ruined houses be rebuilt.

In 1282 a blood libel brought suffering upon the community again. In 1286 many Jews of Speyer and the neighboring communities of Worms, Mainz, and Oppenheim were involved in the ill-fated attempt at immigration to Eretz Israel led by Meir B. Baruch of Rothenburg. The community had a high degree of autonomy, administered by a "Judenbischof" together with a Jewish municipal council. In this period the community maintained not only a synagogue and a cemetery, but also a communal wedding hall, a hospital for the indigent poor (Hekdesh), and a Matzot bakery.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Speyer communities, Worms and Mainz, amended comprehensive community regulations in public affairs, which became known to have a decisive impact on the lives of Jews in the Ashkenaz communities.

The community suffered somewhat during a blood libel in 1342; it was, however, to meet its destruction during the Black Death persecutions in 1349.

With much difficulty the community was rebuilt, but without any of its prior standing as a center of learning. In 1405 the Jews were expelled from the town and allowed to return only in 1421. In 1430 they were again expelled, returning again in 1434, only to be driven out once more a year later. After an interval of 30 years they resided again in Speyer. Karl IV forgave the city's residents for the massacre and robbery they did to the Jews and allowed them to hold the robbery.

In 1467 the town granted the Jews their protection for a period of ten years. Yet in 1468 and 1472 Bishop Matthias von Rammung issued anti-Jewish decrees, including a ban on charging interest and practicing usury; forbidding Jews to appear publicly on Christian feast days; forcing Jews to wear distinctive clothing; forbidding the building of a school or synagogue without the bishop's permission; and an edict confining Speyer Jews to a ghetto.

By that time, however, the number of Jews in Speyer was very small. In fact, from the 16th to the 18th centuries only individual Jews lived in the town. Those who fled from Speyer settled in neighboring places, such as Bruchsal, Berghausen, Harthausen, Dudenhofen, Otterstadt and Landau. In the 19th century the community was renewed; by 1828 it was flourishing once more. A new Talmud Torah was opened and the synagogue was enlarged in 1866. A new Jewish cemetery was consecrated in 1888. At the beginning of the 20th century Dr. Adolf Wolf Salvendi and Dr. Steckelmacher were rabbis of Speyer.

In 1933 there were 264 Jews in Speyer. That same year all the community's cultural associations as well as the Jewish youth societies were banned. In May 1934 the community initiated courses for the study of Hebrew. In 1939 there were still 77 Jews there; of these 51 were deported on October 22, 1940 to the Gurs concentration camp in France and almost all the rest to camps in Eastern Europe.

Jewish ritual objects from the 12th and 15th centuries were preserved in a museum in Speyer.

Nieder-Saulheim

Saulheim

A municipality in the Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It incorporates Nieder-Saulheim and Ober-Saulheim.

First Jewish presence: 18th century; peak Jewish population: 71 in 1861; Jewish population in 1933: 29

In 1850, the Jewish community of Nieder-Saulheim (Lower Saulheim) converted a house on Am Kapellenberg into a synagogue (renovated in 1912). On New Year’s Eve, 1918, the synagogue’s windows were smashed. Although services were not conducted in the synagogue during the years 1924 to 1936—probably for lack of a minyan and a chazzan—the community still managed to consecrate a Jewish cemetery, located inside the municipal burial grounds, in 1936, prior to which burials had been conducted in Jugenheim. In 1933, Nieder-Saulheim’s Jewish population was 29; the three Jews of Ober-Saulheim (Upper Saulheim) were affiliated with the community. Later, in 1936, the Jewish community of Mainz sent a chazzan and some congregants to Nieder-Saulheim, enabling the resumption of synagogue services there. The political situation, however, deteriorated to such an extent that, in August 1938, the Union of Jewish Communities of Hesse asked the Jewish authorities to send food to the beleaguered Nieder-Saulheim community, as German shop owners and traders were refusing to sell to Jews. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), at which point 10 Jews lived in Nieder- Saulheim and one in Ober-Saulheim, the synagogue was destroyed. The community was disbanded shortly afterwards. One Nieder-Saulheim Jew emigrated and 24 relocated within Germany. At least four local Jews perished in the Shoah.

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Oppenheim

A town in the Mainz-Bingen district of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Jews are first mentioned there in the tax register of 1241, according to which they were obliged to pay the Emperor an annual tax of 15 marks.

The Jews of the town, legally the property of the Emperor, were placed under the protection of the officers in charge of the local fortress, to whom they paid their taxes. They also paid a house tax to the Archbishop of Mainz. Rudolph of Hapsburg and other kings gave letters of credit to various noblemen who were to be defrayed from the taxes paid by the Jews of Oppenheim; at times, they also leased these taxes. The burden of their taxes appears to have caused several Jews of Oppenheim to join the group which fled from the Rhineland and under the leadership of Meir B. Baruch of Rothenburg attempted to emigrate to Eretz Israel (1285). At the end of July 1349, during the persecutions which followed the "Black Death", most of the Jews of Oppenheim were murdered, while others chose martyrdom (Kiddush Ha-shem) and burned themselves to death in order to escape forced conversion at the hands of the mob. Among the martyrs was the rabbi Joel Ha-Kohen.

Some-time later the community was reestablished. After 1400 the right of residence was made renewable at the end of every six years, and the amount of taxes to be paid was fixed. In 1422 a plot by two Christians to kill the Jews of the town was frustrated by the municipal council. Certain protection fees and "gifts" which the Jews of Oppenheim were compelled to pay weighed upon them so heavily that despite the additional support of such communities as Worms, Mainz, and Frankfort, Oppenheim Jewry could not meet their payments and were therefore penalized (1444).

In 1456, R. Seligmann Bing (or R. Seligmann Oppenheim) attempted to establish a union of the communities of the upper Rhine, but because of community opposition and that of R. Israel Isserlein (c. 1390-1460), the project was abandoned.

The community suffered during the wars of Louis XIV, and by 1674 only three families remained in the town. By 1722 the number had grown to eight. Many Oppenheim Jews settled in Frankfort and other south German cities where they were known as "Oppenheim" or "Oppenheimer", and the name became widespread. The community numbered 20 families in 1807, 257 in 1872, 189 in 1880, and 56 in 1933.

On Yom Kippur, 1928, Nazis smashed windows in Jewish homes and assaulted Jews, stabbing two. In 1933, 10 Jewish schoolchildren studied religion in Oppenheim. A welfare society and two charitable funds were active in the community, with which the Jews of Dienheim and Nierstein were affiliated.

The cemetery and synagogue were desecrated in June of 1934 and March of 1938, respectively. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the synagogue was burned to the ground; Jewish-owned shops and homes were ransacked, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp.

The synagogue’s ruins were cleared, after which a bomb shelter was erected on the site. Six local Jews emigrated from Oppenheim and 28 relocated within Germany. In 1941, only one Jewish family (four members) still lived in Oppenheim; they were deported to the Nazi concentration and death camps in Eastern Europe in 1942. At least 50 Oppenheim Jews perished in the Holocaust.

In 1970 no Jews lived in Oppenheim.

Weisenau

A neighborhood of the city of Mainz in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1444; peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (36 in 1931)

From 1702 until 1784, Weisenau was ruled by an electoral office of the Archbishop of Mainz and by the local Immunity of the Provost of the St. Victor Monastery. This resulted in two Jewish communities, the Electoral Jews and the Immunity Jews, who were united into one community in 1784. Weisenau’s 18th-century Jewish community made up 21% of the total population of the town. The earliest record of a synagogue is dated 1722. In 1737, the Immunity Jews built a new synagogue on Wormser Strasse while the Electoral Jews established a prayer hall on land owned by the electoral office of the Archbishop of Mainz. Later, in 1760, the Immunity Jews purchased a house (it neighbored the synagogue) and established a community center and mikveh there. That synagogue’s roof was destroyed by fire in 1793, but it was not until 1818 that the community was able to repair the damage; other renovations were carried out during the 19th and 20th centuries. The synagogue closed down in July 1938. Local Jews conducted burials in Mainz until 1881, when the community consecrated its own cemetery on Portlandstrasse. Nazis looted the synagogue on Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), soon after which, in 1939, the building was sold for much less than its true value. Altogether, eight local Jews, Weisenau’s last, were deported in 1941 and 1943. At least five Weisenau Jews perished in the Shoah. After World War II, a local resident purchased the synagogue building and converted it into a chicken coop and woodshed. The Order of St. Vincent inherited the synagogue in 1978 and donated it to the municipality of Mainz in 1985, at which point the building was listed as a historical monument; during the years 1988 to 1996, the municipality restored the building and converted it into a memorial.

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Bischofsheim

A municipality in Groß-Gerau district in Hesse, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1770; peak Jewish population: 82 in 1881; Jewish population in 1933: 22 (five in affiliated Ginsheim)

Bischofsheim’s local Jews were members of the Jewish community of Ruesselsheim until 1826, when they founded their own community. In 1848, Bischofsheim Jews replaced their prayer hall with a synagogue at 46 Frankfurter Strasse; thoroughly renovated in 1873, the synagogue housed a mikveh. Until the 20th century, the community employed a teacher of religion who also served as chazzan and shochet. Burials took place in Gross-Gerau. In 1933, a teacher from Gross-Gerau instructed local Jewish children in religion. Later, in April 1938, the community turned down a neighbor’s offer to purchase the synagogue. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), just as SA men were breaking into the synagogue, the neighbor’s wife once again offered to buy it, and this time she received an affirmative answer. Although she managed to prevent the SA from destroying the building, it was nonetheless damaged. Torah scrolls, ritual objects and the contents of a Jewish-owned textile business were burned. On the afternoon of Pogrom Night, the SA and local schoolchildren broke the windows and doors of Jewish homes; in Ginsheim, a workshop belonging to a Jewish tailor was wrecked. During the Nazi period, several Jews moved to Bischofsheim, which was then a suburb of Mainz, and two Jewish babies were born there. Twenty-three local Jews emigrated, eight relocated within Germany and one died in Bischofsheim. The remaining 18 Jews were forcibly moved into two houses, from which they were deported to Poland and to Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp in March and September of 1942. At least 36 Bischofsheim Jews and three from Ginsheim perished in the Shoah. The synagogue was later converted into a residential building and inn. In 1988, a commemorative plaque was affixed to the building; a memorial was also unveiled at Marienplatz.

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This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

Eltville

Eltville am Rhein

A town in the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. 

First Jewish presence: 14th century (perhaps earlier); peak Jewish population: 58 in 1895; Jewish population in 1933: 37

Although Jews lived in Eltville as early as the 14th century, a lasting community was not founded there until 1780. At some point during the 18th century, a prayer room was set up inside Enoch Abraham’s house. Beginning in 1831, however, the community conducted services in a synagogue—it was owned by the rabbinate in Wiesbaden—on Schwalbacher Strasse. Local Jews maintained a mikveh and a school for religious studies, and we also know that burials were conducted in Mainz until 1847, after which the community used the cemetery in Oestrich; in 1895, Eltville Jews finally consecrated their own cemetery on Schwalbacher Strasse. In 1932, the community leaders were Leopold Bach and Eduard Rosenthal. Eleven children studied religion under the guidance of Mr. Katzenstein, a teacher from Schierstein. Three Eltville Jews passed away in 1933. Ten or twelve managed to emigrate between 1933 and 1938; eight resettled elsewhere in Germany. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), SA men ravaged the synagogue’s interior. Six Jews still lived in Eltville in 1939, all of whom were deported. At least 20 former residents of Eltville perished in the Shoah. Numbers for Kiedrich (an affiliated community) are not available. The synagogue building was converted into a combined business and residential property, to which a memorial plaque was later affixed.

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This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

Muenzenberg

Münzenberg

A town in the Wetteraukreis district in Hesse, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1188; peak Jewish population: 138 in 1861 (14% of the total population); Jewish population in 1933: 27 or 28

The earliest record of a Jewish presence in Muenzenberg, dated 1188, mentions a blood libel accusation. During the Third Crusade (1189-92), however, Jews from the surrounding cities—namely Mainz, Worms and Speyer— found refuge in Muenzenberg. Records indicate that the medieval Jewish community was on good terms with the authorities. The medieval community maintained a synagogue, but its location is unknown. Prominent Muenzenberg Jews included Rabbi David ben Kalonymus (David of Muenzenberg), an important 13th-century Jewish scholar. It was during the 13th century, too, that local Jews were granted residential rights. In Muenzenberg, whose Jewish community was well-regarded, Jews at one point made up one-third of the town’s total population.

The modern community inaugurated a new synagogue at 14 Mittelgasse (present-day 14 Am Junkernhof and Pfarrgasse) in 1848. Other communal institutions included a mikveh, a Jewish school and a cemetery, the last of which was located at Steinberg-Gelaende. In 1933, the Nazi Party launched its anti-Jewish boycott. Local Jews faced not only economic persecution, but also relentless harassment by the SA. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 9, 1938), rioters plundered Jewish-owned stores and set the synagogue’s interior on fire. On September 25, 1942, the town’s remaining 11 Jews were deported. According to Yad Vashem, 21 Muenzenberg Jews were killed in the Shoah. Muenzenberg is no longer home to a Jewish community. In 1985, a memorial plaque was affixed to the former synagogue building, now a fire station.

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This entry was originally published on Beit Ashkenaz - Destroyed German Synagogues and Communities website and contributed to the Database of the Museum of the Jewish People courtesy of Beit Ashkenaz.

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The Jewish Community of Mainz

Mainz

Yiddish: Magenca; French: Mayence; Hebrew: מגנצא

A city on the river Rhine. Mainz is the capital of Rheinland Pfalz, Germany.

21st Century

There is a rapidly growing Jewish community in Mainz. A new synagogue was constructed by the architect Manuel Herz in 2010 on the site of the one destroyed by the Nazis on the Progrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938). 
The Jewish population in Mainz is about 2,000 persons. Just over half are community members, and the rest unaffiliated.


History

Mainz is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. It is presumed that Jews came to the town as merchants in the roman era and may even have founded a settlement there. It is asserted that the renowned Kalonymus family moved from Lucca in Italy to Mainz at the request of Charlemagne in the 9th Century. Another assertion places their move to Mainz in 917. None of the above claims can be reliably corroborated.

In support of the claim that an organized Jewish community probably existed in Mainz in the tenth century, a report that a church council in Mainz declared in 906 that a man who killed a Jew out of malice must be made accountable like any other murderer. Archbishop Friedrich, the Catholic Archbishop of Mainz, (937-954) threatened the Jews with forcible conversion or expulsion, and limited their trade activities.

In 1012, after a priest had converted to Judaism, the Jews of Mainz were ordered by Emperor Heinrich II to convert to Christianity or be expelled from the city. The expelled were later allowed to return and continued to play an active part in the trade of the town, which was a commercial center on the Rhine. In 1080, many Jews fled Mainz in after being accused of starting a fire, in which their quarter was also damaged. They settled in Speyer and established the Jewish community there.

 

The Crusades

At the beginning of the First Crusade (1096), the Mainz community leader, Kalonymus ben Meshullam, secured an order from Emperor Heinrich IV protecting the Jews, in exchange for a considerable sum of money. About 1300 Jews gathered in the palace of Archbishop Ruthard, but the promise of protection was not kept. In May 28 1096, after a 2 day standoff, the gates were opened by the palace guards and the Crusaders entered the place. The Jews, who were armed, fought back as best they could, but were eventually overcome by the Crusaders. Over 1,000 died, some at the hands of the Crusaders and many by suicide as an act of martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”). Some of the Jews decided to accept conversion to Christianity to avoid certain death. Kalonymus ben Meshullam, in exchange for a hefty ransom, managed to escape with a group of about 60 of the community’s wealthy people to Rudesheim, but the group was captured the next morning by the mob, led by Count Emicho of Flonheim, and murdered. Kalonymus committed suicide. The synagogue (first mentioned in 1093) and most of the Jewish quarter were burned down.

12th Century Jews immortalized the Mainz martyrdom as an example of supreme sacrifice (“Akedah”). The chronicle of Solomon ben Simon recounts the martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”) of 1096, and claims that Mainz is the most ancient and famous Jewish community on the Rhine.

The community slowly recovered in the following years, after Emperor Heinrich IV permitted those forcibly converted to return to Judaism, decreeing that the Jews were also to enjoy the "King's Peace", first announced in Mainz, which  regulated jurisdictions for the peaceful settlement of disputes.

During the Second Crusade (1147), the Mainz Jewish community also suffered several casualties. During the Third Crusade (1189-92), the Jews of Mainz were unharmed thanks to the resolute protection of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa, who proclaimed the “Great Imperial Peace”, which extended the original “King’s Peace” and applied it to the whole Empire.

 

Persecution

The Mainz Jews were ordered to wear the special identifying badges in 1259. In 1281 and 1283 numerous Jews were victims of blood libels. The synagogue was also burnt in those years.

In 1286, because of these repeated persecutions, some Jews of Mainz, along with those of other German cities, wished to emigrate to the Land of Israel under the leadership of Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg.

During the Black Death persecution, (1349) the whole community almost perished. Some died in a battle against the mob who blamed them for this epidemic, but the majority (around 3,000 souls) perished in the flames of their burning synagogue and the Jewish quarter, set on fire by their own hands in an act of martyrdom (“Kiddush ha-Shem”). In 1356, Jews began to resettle in Mainz. However, the community did not attain its former standing.

The Jewry taxes, granted to the town in 1295 and renewed in 1366, became increasingly more burdensome. In 1385 they presented the council with 3,000 gulden "out of gratitude" for its protection during the anti-Jewish disturbances which had broken out in various places.

A series of pogroms and expulsions occurred in 1438 (Destruction of the synagogue and cemetery), 1462 (expulsion) and 1473, when the synagogue was converted into a chapel, and the cemetery tombstones were taken and used for building.

 

Economy

Until the second half of the 12th century, the Jews conducted lively mercantile activities and from a very early date attended the Cologne fairs. From this period onward, money lending became increasingly important in Mainz, as in all German communities. Records of the 12th, and especially of the 13th century, often reveal that churches and monasteries owed money to Jews.

From 1286 until the end of the 14th century, the Jewish community was led by a so-called Judenbishop (nominated by the Archbishop) and by not less than four elders (Vorsteher) who together constituted the Judenrat ("Jews' council").

In 1390 Mainz Jewry suffered a great financial setback when the King of Bohemia, Emperor Wenceslaus IV, annulled debts owed to Jews.

 

Jewish Scholarship

A yeshiva was founded in the tenth century by the Kalonymides. It had become prominent under Rabbi Gershom ben Judah, known as Rabbenu Gershom Me’or Hagolah (“The light of the Diaspora”), and his pupils and contemporaries, Judah ha-Kohen, Jacob ben Yakar, Isaac ha-Levi, and Isaac ben Judah.

The regulations (“Takkanot”) established by Rabbenu Gershom, which were applicable to the three Rhenish cities (Mainz, Worm and Speyer), were acknowledged by all the other German Jewish communities and even by other European ones, thereby achieving the force of law, a fact which enhanced the reputation of Mainz. In Germany, Synodal Assemblies were held in Mainz (1150, 1223, 1245, 1307 and 1381), in which primarily representatives of the three leading communities (Mainz, Speyer and Worms) took part. Their rulings and resolutions, the “Takkanot Shum”, were acknowledged by the rest of the communities of Germany and beyond.

The Mainz Rabbi, Jacob ben Moses Moellin (1356- 1427), known as the Maharil, promulgated regulations (“Takkanot”), chiefly concerned with ritual matters, aimed at the German and primarily the Rheinish Jewish communities. His collection of practices (“Minhagim”), compiled by his pupil Zalman of St. Goar, which rely mainly on the Mainz traditions, are connected with all German and some non- German communities, and were used to a large extent in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim, the Code of Jewish Law.

Outstanding among the many notable scholars and personalities in medieval Mainz are, in addition to those already mentioned, Rabbi Nathan ben Machir ben Judah (c. 1100), Rabbi Eliezer ben Nathan (c. 1150), Rabbi Meshullam ben Kalonymus (c. 1150), Rabbi Judah ben Kalonymus ben Moses (c. 1175), Rabbi Baruch ben Samuel (1200), and Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (1220-1293).

A number of scholars originated from Mainz in modern times too, notably Michael Creizenach, Issac Bernays, Joseph Derenburg, and Ludwig Bamberger. Bamberger was a leader of the 1848 revolution, and one of the main leaders of the German liberals (1823-1899). In 1933, Solomon Levi and Moses Bamberger were Rabbis of the mainstream and Orthodox communities, respectively.

 

The Modern Era

In the early modern era only a few isolated Jews lived in Mainz. These few were expelled in 1579, but a new community was reestablished in 1583, reinforced by emigration from Frankfurt, (1614), Worms (1615), and Hanau. A Rabbi was subsequently engaged in 1630 by endorsement of the government, and a synagogue built in 1639. Another synagogue was built in 1673, enlarged and renovated in 1717, and again in 1773. It was later converted to a community center.

During the French occupation (1644-1648), the Jews were subjected to ever-harsher restrictions.

Influenced by the Toleranzpatent (“Edict of Toleration”, extending religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in the crown lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, issued by Emperor Joseph II (1781), the Archbishop-Elector improved the legal position of the Jews, and allowed them to open their own schools and attend general ones.

After the French Republic occupation of Mainz (1792), the Leibzoll ("body tax", a special toll which Jews had to pay in most of the European states in the Middle Ages and up to the beginning of the nineteenth century) was abolished.

On September 12 , 1798 the gates of the ghetto were torn down, and Jews began to acquire residences among the local population. Mainz Jews sent delegations to Napoleon’s Sanhedrin convention in 1806. In 1820 they were granted citizenship and in 1841 full equality as citizens of the French Republic.

In the mid-19th century, the community split when Rabbi Joseph Aub introduced ritual reforms, such as the use of an organ, in a newly built synagogue (1856). Marcus Lehmann founded a Jewish school (a high school with instruction in foreign languages) in 1859. Until the Prussian law of 1876 regulating secession from religious communities, the orthodox remained within the community and seceded only later.

Orthodox Jews, who objected to the Reform practices, founded a meeting place for their own congregation on the corner of Flachsmarkt and Margarethenstrasse. Renovated in 1879, this synagogue was enlarged to accommodate 300 worshipers. Eastern European Jews conducted services in a prayer hall at 13 Margarethenstrasse (established in the 1880s). Then the mainstream community inaugurated a new synagogue on Hindenburgstrasse in 1913, with 580 seats for men and 482 for women. Finally, in 1929, the Orthodox congregation opened another new synagogue.

In the 19th Century the Jewish population of Mainz increased, and in the 20th Century it declined. In the 20th Century its percentage of the general population also declined:

2,665 (5.8%) in 1861
2,998 (5.8%) in 1871
3,104 (3.7%) in 1900
2,738 (2.5%) in 1925 
2,730 (1.8%) in 1933

 

The Holocaust

On November 9, 1938 (the “Kristallnacht” pogroms) the mainstream community’s synagogue (including the museum and library) was looted and burned down. The interior of the Orthodox synagogue was destroyed, but the ensuing fire was extinguished. The Eastern Europeans’ prayer hall was destroyed and looted. 1 local Jew was killed, two committed suicide and 60 Jewish men were deported to Buchenwald. On May 17’ 1939 only 1,452 Jews remained.The Orthodox synagogue was demolished in 1939/40, after which services took place in the community center (2, Forsterstrasse), until the deportations. The steady flow of emigrants was partly balanced by an influx of refugees from the countryside.

In March and September of 1942, the majority of the community was deported to Poland and Theresienstadt concentration camp, and on February 10, 1943 the remaining Jews suffered the same fate. Between 1,300 and 1,400 Mainz Jews perished in the Holocaust. 

 

Postwar

The Mainz Jewish community was reestablished by survivors in October 1945, and a synagogue was opened in 1947. In 1952 that synagogue was moved to the Forsterstrasse building, which had been returned to the community. The synagogue was renovated and enlarged in 1966, and a government office was built on the site of the mainstream community’s destroyed house of worship. In 1988, several of its original pillars were converted into a memorial.The Jewish community of Mainz grew from 80 persons in 1948 to 122 in 1970.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Muenzenberg
Eltville
Bischofsheim
Weisenau
Oppenheim
Nieder-Saulheim
Speyer
Worms

Muenzenberg

Münzenberg

A town in the Wetteraukreis district in Hesse, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1188; peak Jewish population: 138 in 1861 (14% of the total population); Jewish population in 1933: 27 or 28

The earliest record of a Jewish presence in Muenzenberg, dated 1188, mentions a blood libel accusation. During the Third Crusade (1189-92), however, Jews from the surrounding cities—namely Mainz, Worms and Speyer— found refuge in Muenzenberg. Records indicate that the medieval Jewish community was on good terms with the authorities. The medieval community maintained a synagogue, but its location is unknown. Prominent Muenzenberg Jews included Rabbi David ben Kalonymus (David of Muenzenberg), an important 13th-century Jewish scholar. It was during the 13th century, too, that local Jews were granted residential rights. In Muenzenberg, whose Jewish community was well-regarded, Jews at one point made up one-third of the town’s total population.

The modern community inaugurated a new synagogue at 14 Mittelgasse (present-day 14 Am Junkernhof and Pfarrgasse) in 1848. Other communal institutions included a mikveh, a Jewish school and a cemetery, the last of which was located at Steinberg-Gelaende. In 1933, the Nazi Party launched its anti-Jewish boycott. Local Jews faced not only economic persecution, but also relentless harassment by the SA. Later, on Pogrom Night (November 9, 1938), rioters plundered Jewish-owned stores and set the synagogue’s interior on fire. On September 25, 1942, the town’s remaining 11 Jews were deported. According to Yad Vashem, 21 Muenzenberg Jews were killed in the Shoah. Muenzenberg is no longer home to a Jewish community. In 1985, a memorial plaque was affixed to the former synagogue building, now a fire station.

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Eltville

Eltville am Rhein

A town in the Rheingau-Taunus-Kreis in the Regierungsbezirk of Darmstadt in Hesse, Germany. 

First Jewish presence: 14th century (perhaps earlier); peak Jewish population: 58 in 1895; Jewish population in 1933: 37

Although Jews lived in Eltville as early as the 14th century, a lasting community was not founded there until 1780. At some point during the 18th century, a prayer room was set up inside Enoch Abraham’s house. Beginning in 1831, however, the community conducted services in a synagogue—it was owned by the rabbinate in Wiesbaden—on Schwalbacher Strasse. Local Jews maintained a mikveh and a school for religious studies, and we also know that burials were conducted in Mainz until 1847, after which the community used the cemetery in Oestrich; in 1895, Eltville Jews finally consecrated their own cemetery on Schwalbacher Strasse. In 1932, the community leaders were Leopold Bach and Eduard Rosenthal. Eleven children studied religion under the guidance of Mr. Katzenstein, a teacher from Schierstein. Three Eltville Jews passed away in 1933. Ten or twelve managed to emigrate between 1933 and 1938; eight resettled elsewhere in Germany. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), SA men ravaged the synagogue’s interior. Six Jews still lived in Eltville in 1939, all of whom were deported. At least 20 former residents of Eltville perished in the Shoah. Numbers for Kiedrich (an affiliated community) are not available. The synagogue building was converted into a combined business and residential property, to which a memorial plaque was later affixed.

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Bischofsheim

A municipality in Groß-Gerau district in Hesse, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1770; peak Jewish population: 82 in 1881; Jewish population in 1933: 22 (five in affiliated Ginsheim)

Bischofsheim’s local Jews were members of the Jewish community of Ruesselsheim until 1826, when they founded their own community. In 1848, Bischofsheim Jews replaced their prayer hall with a synagogue at 46 Frankfurter Strasse; thoroughly renovated in 1873, the synagogue housed a mikveh. Until the 20th century, the community employed a teacher of religion who also served as chazzan and shochet. Burials took place in Gross-Gerau. In 1933, a teacher from Gross-Gerau instructed local Jewish children in religion. Later, in April 1938, the community turned down a neighbor’s offer to purchase the synagogue. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), just as SA men were breaking into the synagogue, the neighbor’s wife once again offered to buy it, and this time she received an affirmative answer. Although she managed to prevent the SA from destroying the building, it was nonetheless damaged. Torah scrolls, ritual objects and the contents of a Jewish-owned textile business were burned. On the afternoon of Pogrom Night, the SA and local schoolchildren broke the windows and doors of Jewish homes; in Ginsheim, a workshop belonging to a Jewish tailor was wrecked. During the Nazi period, several Jews moved to Bischofsheim, which was then a suburb of Mainz, and two Jewish babies were born there. Twenty-three local Jews emigrated, eight relocated within Germany and one died in Bischofsheim. The remaining 18 Jews were forcibly moved into two houses, from which they were deported to Poland and to Theresienstadt Nazi concentration camp in March and September of 1942. At least 36 Bischofsheim Jews and three from Ginsheim perished in the Shoah. The synagogue was later converted into a residential building and inn. In 1988, a commemorative plaque was affixed to the building; a memorial was also unveiled at Marienplatz.

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Weisenau

A neighborhood of the city of Mainz in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

First Jewish presence: 1444; peak Jewish population: unknown; Jewish population in 1933: unknown (36 in 1931)

From 1702 until 1784, Weisenau was ruled by an electoral office of the Archbishop of Mainz and by the local Immunity of the Provost of the St. Victor Monastery. This resulted in two Jewish communities, the Electoral Jews and the Immunity Jews, who were united into one community in 1784. Weisenau’s 18th-century Jewish community made up 21% of the total population of the town. The earliest record of a synagogue is dated 1722. In 1737, the Immunity Jews built a new synagogue on Wormser Strasse while the Electoral Jews established a prayer hall on land owned by the electoral office of the Archbishop of Mainz. Later, in 1760, the Immunity Jews purchased a house (it neighbored the synagogue) and established a community center and mikveh there. That synagogue’s roof was destroyed by fire in 1793, but it was not until 1818 that the community was able to repair the damage; other renovations were carried out during the 19th and 20th centuries. The synagogue closed down in July 1938. Local Jews conducted burials in Mainz until 1881, when the community consecrated its own cemetery on Portlandstrasse. Nazis looted the synagogue on Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), soon after which, in 1939, the building was sold for much less than its true value. Altogether, eight local Jews, Weisenau’s last, were deported in 1941 and 1943. At least five Weisenau Jews perished in the Shoah. After World War II, a local resident purchased the synagogue building and converted it into a chicken coop and woodshed. The Order of St. Vincent inherited the synagogue in 1978 and donated it to the municipality of Mainz in 1985, at which point the building was listed as a historical monument; during the years 1988 to 1996, the municipality restored the building and converted it into a memorial.

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Oppenheim

A town in the Mainz-Bingen district of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Jews are first mentioned there in the tax register of 1241, according to which they were obliged to pay the Emperor an annual tax of 15 marks.

The Jews of the town, legally the property of the Emperor, were placed under the protection of the officers in charge of the local fortress, to whom they paid their taxes. They also paid a house tax to the Archbishop of Mainz. Rudolph of Hapsburg and other kings gave letters of credit to various noblemen who were to be defrayed from the taxes paid by the Jews of Oppenheim; at times, they also leased these taxes. The burden of their taxes appears to have caused several Jews of Oppenheim to join the group which fled from the Rhineland and under the leadership of Meir B. Baruch of Rothenburg attempted to emigrate to Eretz Israel (1285). At the end of July 1349, during the persecutions which followed the "Black Death", most of the Jews of Oppenheim were murdered, while others chose martyrdom (Kiddush Ha-shem) and burned themselves to death in order to escape forced conversion at the hands of the mob. Among the martyrs was the rabbi Joel Ha-Kohen.

Some-time later the community was reestablished. After 1400 the right of residence was made renewable at the end of every six years, and the amount of taxes to be paid was fixed. In 1422 a plot by two Christians to kill the Jews of the town was frustrated by the municipal council. Certain protection fees and "gifts" which the Jews of Oppenheim were compelled to pay weighed upon them so heavily that despite the additional support of such communities as Worms, Mainz, and Frankfort, Oppenheim Jewry could not meet their payments and were therefore penalized (1444).

In 1456, R. Seligmann Bing (or R. Seligmann Oppenheim) attempted to establish a union of the communities of the upper Rhine, but because of community opposition and that of R. Israel Isserlein (c. 1390-1460), the project was abandoned.

The community suffered during the wars of Louis XIV, and by 1674 only three families remained in the town. By 1722 the number had grown to eight. Many Oppenheim Jews settled in Frankfort and other south German cities where they were known as "Oppenheim" or "Oppenheimer", and the name became widespread. The community numbered 20 families in 1807, 257 in 1872, 189 in 1880, and 56 in 1933.

On Yom Kippur, 1928, Nazis smashed windows in Jewish homes and assaulted Jews, stabbing two. In 1933, 10 Jewish schoolchildren studied religion in Oppenheim. A welfare society and two charitable funds were active in the community, with which the Jews of Dienheim and Nierstein were affiliated.

The cemetery and synagogue were desecrated in June of 1934 and March of 1938, respectively. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), the synagogue was burned to the ground; Jewish-owned shops and homes were ransacked, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp.

The synagogue’s ruins were cleared, after which a bomb shelter was erected on the site. Six local Jews emigrated from Oppenheim and 28 relocated within Germany. In 1941, only one Jewish family (four members) still lived in Oppenheim; they were deported to the Nazi concentration and death camps in Eastern Europe in 1942. At least 50 Oppenheim Jews perished in the Holocaust.

In 1970 no Jews lived in Oppenheim.

Nieder-Saulheim

Saulheim

A municipality in the Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It incorporates Nieder-Saulheim and Ober-Saulheim.

First Jewish presence: 18th century; peak Jewish population: 71 in 1861; Jewish population in 1933: 29

In 1850, the Jewish community of Nieder-Saulheim (Lower Saulheim) converted a house on Am Kapellenberg into a synagogue (renovated in 1912). On New Year’s Eve, 1918, the synagogue’s windows were smashed. Although services were not conducted in the synagogue during the years 1924 to 1936—probably for lack of a minyan and a chazzan—the community still managed to consecrate a Jewish cemetery, located inside the municipal burial grounds, in 1936, prior to which burials had been conducted in Jugenheim. In 1933, Nieder-Saulheim’s Jewish population was 29; the three Jews of Ober-Saulheim (Upper Saulheim) were affiliated with the community. Later, in 1936, the Jewish community of Mainz sent a chazzan and some congregants to Nieder-Saulheim, enabling the resumption of synagogue services there. The political situation, however, deteriorated to such an extent that, in August 1938, the Union of Jewish Communities of Hesse asked the Jewish authorities to send food to the beleaguered Nieder-Saulheim community, as German shop owners and traders were refusing to sell to Jews. On Pogrom Night (Nov. 9, 1938), at which point 10 Jews lived in Nieder- Saulheim and one in Ober-Saulheim, the synagogue was destroyed. The community was disbanded shortly afterwards. One Nieder-Saulheim Jew emigrated and 24 relocated within Germany. At least four local Jews perished in the Shoah.

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Speyer 

In French: Spire; Eng. sometimes Spires

A city in Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. 

Although local traditions, mainly legendary, speak of Jewish settlement in Speyer in Roman times, Jews probably first came to the town in the early 11th century. Documentary evidence for a Jewish settlement in the town dates only from 1084. At that time Jews fled from Mainz for fear of persecution because of a fire they were accused of having caused. The Bishop Ruediger allotted them a special residential quarter and gave them a plot from church lands to be used as a cemetery. They were also allowed to build a protective wall around their quarter. Bishop Ruediger granted them unrestricted freedom of trade and considerable autonomy. The Jews were also expressly allowed to sell to Christians meat which was ritually unclean for Jews, and they did not have to pay any duties or tolls when entering or leaving the town. They were also given permission to employ Christian servants.. By 1096 a synagogue had been built. The Jewish community of Speyer was one of the first Rhine communities to suffer during the first crusade. On a Sabbath, the eighth of Iyyar (May 3, 1096) a mob of crusaders surrounded the synagogue intent upon attacking the community  while all were gathered in one spot. Forewarned, the Jews had concluded their service early and fled to their homes. Nevertheless, ten Jews were caught outside their homes and killed. When Bishop John heard of what occurred, he came to the defense of the Jews with his militia, prevented further bloodshed, and punished some of the murderers.

The community grew and prospered during the 12th century; its economic position was excellent, and it established itself as a center of Torah. Among the scholars of Speyer in this period were Eliakim B. Meshullam ha-Levi, a student of Isaac B. Judah of Mainz; Kalonymus B. Isaac, known as a mystic as well as a Talmudist; Isaac B. Asher ha-Levi; Jacob B. Isaac ha-Levi, a German Tosafist and author of a dirge on the crusade period; Samuel B. Kalonymus he-Chasid; Shemariah B. Mordecai, a correspondent of R. Jacob Tam and a great Talmudic authority; Meir B. Kalonymus, the author of a commentary to the Sifra, Sifrei, and Mekhilta; and Judah B. Kalonymus B. Meir, the author of a Talmudic lexicon, Yichusei Tanna'im ve-Amora'im.

In 1195, after severe persecutions following a blood libel, Emperor Henry VI demanded that the Jews be compensated for damages and that the burned synagogue and ruined houses be rebuilt.

In 1282 a blood libel brought suffering upon the community again. In 1286 many Jews of Speyer and the neighboring communities of Worms, Mainz, and Oppenheim were involved in the ill-fated attempt at immigration to Eretz Israel led by Meir B. Baruch of Rothenburg. The community had a high degree of autonomy, administered by a "Judenbischof" together with a Jewish municipal council. In this period the community maintained not only a synagogue and a cemetery, but also a communal wedding hall, a hospital for the indigent poor (Hekdesh), and a Matzot bakery.

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Speyer communities, Worms and Mainz, amended comprehensive community regulations in public affairs, which became known to have a decisive impact on the lives of Jews in the Ashkenaz communities.

The community suffered somewhat during a blood libel in 1342; it was, however, to meet its destruction during the Black Death persecutions in 1349.

With much difficulty the community was rebuilt, but without any of its prior standing as a center of learning. In 1405 the Jews were expelled from the town and allowed to return only in 1421. In 1430 they were again expelled, returning again in 1434, only to be driven out once more a year later. After an interval of 30 years they resided again in Speyer. Karl IV forgave the city's residents for the massacre and robbery they did to the Jews and allowed them to hold the robbery.

In 1467 the town granted the Jews their protection for a period of ten years. Yet in 1468 and 1472 Bishop Matthias von Rammung issued anti-Jewish decrees, including a ban on charging interest and practicing usury; forbidding Jews to appear publicly on Christian feast days; forcing Jews to wear distinctive clothing; forbidding the building of a school or synagogue without the bishop's permission; and an edict confining Speyer Jews to a ghetto.

By that time, however, the number of Jews in Speyer was very small. In fact, from the 16th to the 18th centuries only individual Jews lived in the town. Those who fled from Speyer settled in neighboring places, such as Bruchsal, Berghausen, Harthausen, Dudenhofen, Otterstadt and Landau. In the 19th century the community was renewed; by 1828 it was flourishing once more. A new Talmud Torah was opened and the synagogue was enlarged in 1866. A new Jewish cemetery was consecrated in 1888. At the beginning of the 20th century Dr. Adolf Wolf Salvendi and Dr. Steckelmacher were rabbis of Speyer.

In 1933 there were 264 Jews in Speyer. That same year all the community's cultural associations as well as the Jewish youth societies were banned. In May 1934 the community initiated courses for the study of Hebrew. In 1939 there were still 77 Jews there; of these 51 were deported on October 22, 1940 to the Gurs concentration camp in France and almost all the rest to camps in Eastern Europe.

Jewish ritual objects from the 12th and 15th centuries were preserved in a museum in Speyer.

Worms

A city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany,


Documentary evidence points to the settlement of Jews in Worms at the end of the 10th century. The community grew during the 11th century, and a synagogue was inaugurated in 1034. In 1076-1077 there was already a Jewish cemetery, which has been preserved and is the oldest in Europe. Around 1090 the king granted to the Jews of Worms a charter of privileges similar in most respects to the charter granted to the Jews of Speyer. The Jews of Worms were granted freedom to travel without restriction throughout the kingdom and engage in commerce without paying customs duties; they were authorized to function as moneychangers, and could hire Christian workmen, wet-nurses, and maidservants. It was forbidden to convert their children forcibly to Christianity, and a Jew who converted lost his share in his father's property. In litigation between Jews and Christians, each party was entitled to be judged by its religious laws. The Jews of Worms were directly subordinate to the king and enjoyed a great deal of independence in electing the heads of the public.

A number of distinguished scholars were active in Worms: Baruch, a disciple of R. Gershom B. Judah and a prominent halakhic authority; the hymnologist Meir B. Isaac; Jacob B. Yakar and Isaac B. Eleazar, teachers of Rashi during his stay in Worms; and Kalonymus B. Shabbetai of Rome. Unlike Magnesian scholars, rabbis in Worms were also engaged in the interpretation of the Bible and the Midrashim and the Piyutim.

This flourishing period was interrupted by the persecutions of the First Crusade that took place in May 1096. The Crusaders, drawn from the simple townfolk and the peasants of the surrounding villages, attacked the Jews in Worms. Some of them were killed in their homes or took their own lives, while others found refuge in the palace of the bishop until they were overwhelmed and massacred or chose to kill their children and then themselves. The number of martyrs reached 800. Only a few saved themselves by accepting baptism, but in the following year Emperor Henry IV allowed them to return to Judaism. After a short while a new community was established in Worms, and in 1112 Emperor Henry V renewed the customs exemption which his father had granted to the Jews of the town. In the meantime, Jewish was replaced by moneylending. At the time of the Second Crusade in 1146, the Jews of Worms fled to fortresses in the surrounding region until the danger had passed. Subsequently the community grew in numbers.

During the 13th century the bishop assumed jurisdiction over the Jews in lawsuits with Christians, as well as in cases of criminal law. He also collected a tax from them, in addition to that imposed by the king. The Jews received the protection of the municipal council and were obligated in return to defend the town in case of attack. During the siege of Worms, in 1201, the Jews took part in its defense. In January 1348, Charles IV waived all the royal rights over the Jews of Worms in favor of the town. The community was led by 12 elected parnasim. The bishop of Worms appointed one of them "bishop of the Jews" for life. The last "bishop of the Jews" died in 1792.

The scholars of Worms took part in the Rabbinical Synods which were convened in the Rhineland, as well as in the drafting of communal regulations for the three communities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz which had wide-ranging influence on Ashkenazi Jewry. The most important halakhic authorities of Worms in the period were the paytan Menahem B. Jacob; Eleazar B. Judah, disciple of Judah he-Chasid ("the pious"), the author of Sefer ha-Roke'ach; and Baruch B. Meir and his son Meir of Rothenburg (presiding judge (אב-בית-דין) of Worms; d. 1281).

On second Adar 10, 5109 (1349), at the time of the Black Death, anti-Jewish disorders broke out in Worms. Some Jews managed to escape to Sinsheim, Heidelberg, and other localities; all the other members of the community set fire to themselves in their homes or were massacred by rioters.

The property of the Jews was confiscated by the town, but the latter was also compelled to pay assignments which the king had granted to several of his creditors on account of the tax which was due to him. The local authorities therefore considered it advantageous to authorize the settlement of the Jews in the town once more (1353-1355).

This third community fixed the day of Adar 10 as a perpetual feast day. The new community did not acquire the splendor of the past. An uprising of craftsmen in 1615 caused the Jews to flee from the town; the synagogue and the cemetery were desecrated. In 1616 the uprising was subdued by the governor, and the Jews returned to Worms. The first parnas of the renewed community was David Joshua Oppenheim, who in 1624 built the bet midrash attributed to Rashi.

Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer were born in Worms. In the second half of the 17th century Moshe Samson Bachrah served as a rabbi in Worms. Yiftach Yosef described the magnificent past of the community in his book Miracle of Miracles.

Ten years after Worms had been set on fire by the French, in 1689, the community of Worms was again reconstituted. During the 18th and 19th centuries Worms no longer ranked among the important communities of Germany, even though it was still renowned and remained attached to its ancient customs. During the 19th century there were about 800 Jews living in the town. They were granted civic rights along with the Jews of Hesse, and in 1848 a Jew was elected mayor of Worms.

The Holocaust Period

On the eve of the rise of the Nazis to power, in 1933, there were 1,016 Jews living in Worms. Many Jews emigrated following the boycott of Jewish goods and other forms of harassment. A concentration camp was set up in the vicinity of the town. Nazi persecution stimulated communal activity in the sphere of Jewish adult education, and after the expulsion of Jewish children from the public school a Jewish school was founded in Worms in 1936. The ancient synagogue and the bet midrash of Rashi were destroyed on Pogrom Night, November 9-10, 1938. Ninety-seven Jews were taken to concentration camps. By May 1939 only 316 Jews remained in Worms. During World War II in 1941-1942 the remaining Jews in Worms were deported to concentration camps and few survived.

After the end of the war some isolated Jews settled in Worms, but the community was not reorganized. The German authorities rebuilt the synagogue and the bet midrash from their ruins (1961), and preserved the ancient cemetery. The archives of the community of Worms of 1522 were sent to the general archives of Jewish history in Jerusalem.

Coshel, Meyer Moses
Creizenach, Michael
Rashi (Rabbi Shelomo Yitzhaki)
Ben Yehuda, Gershom
Meshullam Ben Kalonymus of Rome
Moses Ben Kalonymus
Kalonymus Ben Judah Ha-Bahur
Amnon of Mainz
Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Moses
David Ben Meshullam of Speyer
Moelln, Yaakov Ben Moshe
Shimon Bar Yitzhak
Baruch Ben Samuel of Mainz
Coshel, Meyer Moses (1822-1920), locksmith, born in Wintzenheim, Alsace, France, into a poor family. His ancestors has been wealthy and important members of the Alsace Jewish community, but his father Heymann Haim Avraham (1783-1856) had fallen on hard times and was employed as a coachman’s assistant. Nevertheless, records show that he never fell behind in paying the melamed who taught his children.

Moses Coschel was apprenticed to his uncle Leon, a locksmith, at age 13. After four years he had learnt the trade and was considered a qualified worker.

To become a master locksmith, however, he had to prove initiative and had to acquire more experience in special locks. To do this he borrowed his father’s old horse and decided to travel alone to Mainz in Germany, a distance of some 250km, where his uncle Isaac had run an inn. Has uncle had died and the inn was currently managed by his widow. The journey took him over one year. On the way he stopped in Landau, Germersheim, Hoffnung, Grunstadt, Gunersblum, Worms and Openheim. In each place he worked for a while at his trade in order to improve his skills with different types of locks. When in 1840 he finally arrived in Mainz he was warmly welcomed by his aunt who gave him a room, food and even clothing. He then found employment in Mainz as a master locksmith and earned enough to look after himself and even to send money to his parents to pay for the old horse which had since died. After a while father Heymann wrote letters urging him to return home and he indeed soon started out on his return journey. In the village of Guebwiller, some 20km from his native village, he was offered a position as a master technician in a factory which produced textile machinery.
It was not easy for Moses Coschel, a pious Jew, to keep Shabat and other Jewish traditions in Guebwiller. Work at the factory started at 6am when it was still dark in winter so it was not possible to say his morning prayers and wear teffilin before he went to work. He therefore waited until the 8am meal break when he was able to find a corner in the factory where he could pray, often under the mocking glares of his work colleagues. He wrote to his parents that it was not easy simple for him but he succeeded in remaining religious Jew as well as carrying out his work to the satisfaction of his employer. Once his employer gave him a complicated task on Friday afternoon a few minutes before the beginning of Shabat. He reported to his parents that he did not carry out the instruction, but went home in time for the commencement of Shabat. Another worker did the job instead of him. Moses Coschel was supporting a wife and five children.
Creizenach, Michael (1789-1842) German Jewish educator and theologian, a representative of the generation after Moses (Moshe) Mendelsssohn. He initially received a traditional Talmudic education and began to acquire secular knowledge from the age of 16. He studied mathematics, wrote textbooks on it and became a private tutor. As a result of his pressure a Jewish school was opened in Mainz, Germany, which he conducted according to the principles of Reform Judaism. The school closed after a short time. In 1825 he was appointed a teacher at the Philanthropin, the modern Hebrew High School in Frankfurt am Main, established in 1804. Religious services with Reform orientation were held regularly in the school hall and they attracted many worshippers. An annual boys' confirmation service was held there.

Creizenach's books were devoted to the advocacy of a reform of rabbinic Judaism. He wrote a "Shulchan Aruch" in which he tried to show that it was not possible to live absolutely according to the Talmud and that a some sort of compromise was needed whereby modern ideas would be applied. However, towards the end of his life he abandoned this view. He was deeply interested in Hebrew literature and in the last two years of his life he was the co-editor of a Hebrew magazine, "Zion".

His works included "Versuch über die Parallellentheorie", Mainz, (1822), "Heshbon ha-Nefesh, oder Selbstprüfung des Israeliten Während der Busstage", Frankfur am Main (1838), "32 Thesen über den Talmud" (1831), and "Lehrbuch der Technischen Geometrie" (1828).

Rashi (Rabbi Shelomo Yitzhaki) (1040-1105), commentator on the Bible and Talmud, born in Troyes, France, and received his early education in Worms. An addition to the Worms synagogue is called the Rashi chapel and is thought of as his traditional place of study although it was constructed centuries later. He continued his studies in Mainz and then returned to Troyes where he founded his own talmudic academy and earned his living as a vintner. Many students flocked to study with him. His commentaries on the Bible and Talmud remain standard to this day and have proved an indispensable key to their understanding. Centuries of students have studied these basic works "with Rashi's commentary" noted for their lucidity and conciseness. Rashi also wrote many responsa, which were accepted as authoritative. His own family - including sons-in-law and grandchildren - were great scholars who continued his work, founding the school of talmudic commentators known as the tosafists (writers of super commentaries on Rashi).

Rabbinical authority

He may have been born in Metz but was chiefly associated with Mainz. Those of his liturgical poems that have been preserved reflect the troubled experience of Rhineland Jewry of his days. One of them refers to the persecution and expulsion from Mainz in 1012. His talmudic academy in Mainz attracted students from many countries and he was one of the first rabbinic scholars to bring the rabbinic scholarship of the academies of Eretz Israel and Babylonia to western Europe, being commonly called Meor ha-Gola - the Luminary of the Diaspora. Gershom made important contributions to establishing the text of the Talmud which previously was only known in northern Europe in an unsatisfactory version. He copied out the entire Mishna and Talmud basing himself on the best manuscripts he could find. He is best known for a series of ordinances (takkanot) he issued that greatly influenced medieval Jewry. His ban on polygamy became accepted throughout the Ashkenazi and much of the non-Ashkenazi world.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he was probably the son of Rabbi Meshullam, a scholar who lived in Mainz in 1034. On February 19, 1090, David Ben Meshullam, together with Judah Ben Kalonymus and Moshe Ben Jekuthiel, was received by Emperor Henry IV as representative of the Jewish community.
He composed a selihah for the eve of the Day of Atonement which begins with Elohim al Domi le-Dami (God! Be Not Silent on My Blood). The work is still used in German and Polish rituals, yet the original text, which described the horrors of the First Crusade, was changed by censorship. He died in Speyer, Germany.
Rabbinic authority

Born into a prestigious rabbinic family in Mainz, he studied first with his father, then with noted rabbis in Vienna where he was ordained, with the additional scholarly title of distinction Morenu. He succeeded his father as rabbi of Mainz in 1387 and established there a talmudic academy, many of whose students became the leading rabbis of Central Europe. As an outstanding scholar, he was sought by Jews throughout Europe with their queries in religious law. His responsa reflected the religious and social life of his time and showed a respect for existing custom. Moelln was a poet of liturgical verse (piyyutim) and a renowned cantor whose melodies were to be heard in communal worship in Mainz until modern times.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, as grandson of Abun, who came from Le Mans, France. He lived before 950. Simeon bar Isaac was considered a great expert on prayers and piyyutim and on customs in general. Simeon wrote yotserot, kerovot, selihot, hymns and Rashuyyot le-Hatanim. His piyyutim are included in mahzorim of the French and German Jewish rites.
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Tombstone of Rabbi Mesullam b. Kalonymos, Mainz, Germany, c. 1020
Jewish cemetery in Mainz, Germany, WWI
Mrs. Nannchen Aschelbacher, Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, 1906
Tombstone of Rabbi Mesullam b. Kalonymos,
Mainz, Germany, c. 1020
(From the Beit Hatfutsot Photo Exhibition: "The Jews of Germany, From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic", 1984)
Jewish cemetery in Mainz, Germany, WWI
Photo taken by the German Army during W.W.I.
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Polska Akademia Nauk, Warsaw)
Mrs. Nannchen Aschelbacher,
Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, 1906
Photo: Samson & Co. , Mainz
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Hava Gelman, Israel)
LANGGASSER
MAINZER

LANGGASSER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birthplace, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

This name is derived from Langgasse, a central street in the city of Mainz, Germany. First Jewish presence in Mainz is documented in the 10th century, one of the oldest in the German-speaking world. Places, regions and countries of origin or residence are some of the sources of Jewish family names. But, unless the family has reliable records, names based on toponymics cannot prove the exact origin of the family.

Langgässer is documented as a Jewish family name with Heinrich Langgässer (1813-1886) of Mainz, Germany.

MAINZER

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (derived from a geographic name of a town, city, region or country). Surnames that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

The family name Mainzer is derived from Mainz on the Rhine, western Germany, one of the most ancient sites of Jewish settlement in Ashkenaz (Franco-Germany). Jews were settled there since the year 900 CE. Numerous Jewish family names derive from this source, ranging from Minz(t), Mints, Minc, to Muenz and Muenzer (literally "minter" in German). The suffix "-er" in the name Mainzeris the German for "from" Mainz. It is possible that some of these variants indicate origin from one of two towns called Minsk, one the capital city of White Russia, today Belarus, where Jews lived since the 15th century, the other a town in east-central Poland (Minsk Mazowieckie) where Jews lived since at least the 18th century.
Meshullam Ben Kalonymus of Rome
Moses Ben Kalonymus
Kalonymus Ben Judah Ha-Bahur
Amnon of Mainz
Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Moses
Baruch Ben Samuel of Mainz
Kalonymus Ben Judah Ha-Bahur
Amnon of Mainz
Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Moses
David Ben Meshullam of Speyer
Moelln, Yaakov Ben Moshe
Shimon Bar Yitzhak
Baruch Ben Samuel of Mainz
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he was probably the son of Rabbi Meshullam, a scholar who lived in Mainz in 1034. On February 19, 1090, David Ben Meshullam, together with Judah Ben Kalonymus and Moshe Ben Jekuthiel, was received by Emperor Henry IV as representative of the Jewish community.
He composed a selihah for the eve of the Day of Atonement which begins with Elohim al Domi le-Dami (God! Be Not Silent on My Blood). The work is still used in German and Polish rituals, yet the original text, which described the horrors of the First Crusade, was changed by censorship. He died in Speyer, Germany.
Rabbinic authority

Born into a prestigious rabbinic family in Mainz, he studied first with his father, then with noted rabbis in Vienna where he was ordained, with the additional scholarly title of distinction Morenu. He succeeded his father as rabbi of Mainz in 1387 and established there a talmudic academy, many of whose students became the leading rabbis of Central Europe. As an outstanding scholar, he was sought by Jews throughout Europe with their queries in religious law. His responsa reflected the religious and social life of his time and showed a respect for existing custom. Moelln was a poet of liturgical verse (piyyutim) and a renowned cantor whose melodies were to be heard in communal worship in Mainz until modern times.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, as grandson of Abun, who came from Le Mans, France. He lived before 950. Simeon bar Isaac was considered a great expert on prayers and piyyutim and on customs in general. Simeon wrote yotserot, kerovot, selihot, hymns and Rashuyyot le-Hatanim. His piyyutim are included in mahzorim of the French and German Jewish rites.
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he became a legendary figure through a report by Isaac Ben Moses of Vienna. The legend is that when after the bishop’s attempts to convert him he asked for three days to think the matter over. Brought before the bishop, he announced that he refused to convert and asked that his tongue be cut out because he had not refused conversion immediately. In return the bishop ordered to cut off his legs and arms. However, Amnon survived long enough to attend the Rosh Hashanah service at the synagogue where he recited the hymn U-Netaneh Tokef Kedushat ha-Yom (Let us tell the mighty holiness of this day) after which he died. He later appeared in a dream to Kalonymus Ben Meshullam and taught him the entire prayer. The martyrdom of Amnon of Mainz inspired many during the Crusades to follow him. He died in Mainz, Germany.
Scholar and poet. Born in Mainz, Germany, he studied with Moses Ben Solomon ha-Kohen, whom he later succeeded as member of the bet din of Mainz. Baruch also studied with Judah Ben Kalonymus Ben Meir of Speyer.
He is the author of Sefer Hahokhma (Book of Wisdom), a comprehensive halakhic work. Some of his 33 preserved piyyutim are of great historical value, since they deal with the persecutions of Jews in Blois (1171), Speyer and Boppard (1196) and Wuerzburg (before 1221). One of his poems is devoted to a certain talmudic discussion, a rare phenomenon among piyyutim. These poems integrate the biblical language with the language of rabbinical and early mystical literature. Baruch’s selihot became very popular among congregants. He died in Mainz, Germany.