When cruising on the Rhine, do not miss an opportunity to explore Jewish Worms. A port town on the western bank of the Rhine, Worms ranks among the oldest cities in Germany, and boasts incredibly well-preserved architectural reminders of its rich Jewish history and tradition.
Our Worms shore excursion puts a special emphasis on the long history of the city’s important Jewish community, which existed here without interruption between around 1000 CE and the dark years of Nazi rule, earning the city the title “little Jerusalem” on the Rhine.
As a matter of fact, Worms, in Hebrew Wermaisa, was one of the three Kehillot SchUM, together with Mainz and Speyer (Magenza and Shpira respectively): a federation which represented the main hub of Jewish life and Talmudic studies in Europe during the Middle Ages. ShUM is the acronym formed out of the first letters of the medieval Hebrew names for the cities, Shpira, Wermaisa and Magenza.
Although written evidence for the existence of a Jewish community in Worms dates back to the 10th century, the first Jews might have been here for much longer, as some sources suggest their presence in Borbetomagus (the Celtic name of Worms).
According to historical records, a synagogue was there already in 1043. However, it was destroyed during the crusaders’ raids in the 11th and 12th centuries. A new synagogue was built in 1174, and a women`s building was added in the 13th century. Destroyed by the Nazis during WWII, it was rebuilt in 1961, while the women’s mikvah dating from the end of the 12th century has survived undamaged.
Another fascinating and astonishingly well-preserved Jewish site is the “Holy Sands” cemetery in Worms, the oldest existing Jewish cemetery in Europe, with a gravestone dating to as early as 1058. Some of prominent scholars, such as Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg (the MaHaRam) and Rabbi Jakob ben Moses haLevi (the MaHaRil) were buried here.
Worms’ fame as a centre of Jewish culture is largely due to Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak, called Rashi, a writer of a commentary on the Talmud of world renown up until today, who around 1060 studied at Yeshiva in Worms.
The Rashi House in Worms was named in his honour. Built were the Yeshiva once stood, the house today hosts the Jewish Museum and the City Archives. Don’t miss the museum’s impressive permanent collection, which displays a model of the old synagogue in Worms, medieval records, plans and documents.
On our Worms shore excursion, all of Worms’ gems will be covered. To name just a few: Kaiserdom, a magnificent late-Romanesque style cathedral from the 11th century perched on the city’s highest hill and overlooking the city’s skyline. Right next to it, the Nibelungen Feststpiele take place every the summer, offering a number of concerts, lectures and debates revolving around the famous saga. In fact, it is here, in Worms, where the medieval epic poem Song of the Nibelungs is set. Learn about the dramatic story of dragon slayer Siegfried in the fascinating Nibelungen Museum!
Worms is also associated with Martin Luther who was summoned to the Imperial Diet in Worms in 1521. The special link between the Reformation movement and the city is visible on Lutherplatz, where one can admire the Luther Monument, the world’s biggest Reformation monument, built in 1868.
Last but not least, we will make sure you will wine and dine properly. We will give you a choice of the best places where to taste the regional award-winning wines, and delicious regional specialities like Pfälzer Saumagen or Handkäse mit Musik (a handmade cheese made of sour milk).
Delve into Worms’ exceptional Jewish heritage and enjoy all charms of Worms, little Jerusalem on the Rhine on our shore excursion.