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Interior of the Rashi Synagogue in Worms, Germany, 1966

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Interior of the Rashi Synagogue
in Worms, Germany, 1966
Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Sonnenfeld collection)
Photo period:
1966
ID Number:
207296
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)
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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.

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Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
Interior of the Rashi Synagogue in Worms, Germany, 1966
Interior of the Rashi Synagogue
in Worms, Germany, 1966
Photo: Leni Sonnenfeld
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot, Sonnenfeld collection)
Image Purchase: For more details about image purchasing Click here, make sure you have the photo ID number (as appear above)

Worms

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.