Worms’ Jewish Heritage is part of the outstanding and unique Jewish legacy of ShUM- an association of three cities (Speyer, Worms and Mainz) along the River Rhine, which represented the cradle of Jewish life 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.
According to local legends, the first Jews settled in Worms after the destruction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, but in fact, the oldest written records that mention Jews living in Worms date back to the end of the 10th century.
The Heiliger Sand (“Holy Sand”) is the oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in Europe. Here you can find tombstones dating back to as far as 1058. Prominent scholars, such as, Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg (the MaHaRam) and Rabbi Jakob ben Moses haLevi (the MaHaRil) are buried here, as well as other members of the Jewish community.
At the same time as the Kaiserdom, a magnificent Romanesque-style cathedral, a new synagogue was built in 1174, and soon afterwards, the mikveh, was added in 1185. The first women`s Schul in Europe was erected here at the beginning of the 13th century.
The community thrived during the 12th century in spite of persecutions; and Worms established itself as a hotspot for Torah studies whose fame in Europe was equal only to Mainz and Speyer. Renowned Tamudists were attracted by the prestigious yeshivot in the ShUM communities, such as Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak, known as Raschi, a figure of crucial significance for Worms’ Jewish Heritage. Around 1060, this world-famous scholar studied at Worms’ yeshiva. Located on the site where the yeshiva is said to have stood, the “Rashi house” was dedicated to his memory; today it hosts the Jewish Museum and the City Archive.
Constant persecutions throughout the Middle Ages put an end to the Worms’ Jewish community, and centuries later, on Kristallnacht in 1938, the ancient synagogue and Rashi’s beit midrash were destroyed. But Worms will always be associated with the golden age of ShUM, and on our Jewish Worms Tour, we’ll explore the traces and the legacy of the medieval Worms Jewry, from intact gems such as the mikveh and the Old Cemetery, to the remains of the city wall, gate ways, the ‘Jews Alley’ and the Synagogue, rebuilt after the Shoah.
If you happen to be in the Worms in autumn, you cannot miss the Jewish Culture Days, which take place every year since 2005.
On our Jewish tour, you will also discover other central moments in Worms’ history. Did you know that the city was the capital of the Burgundian kingdom, whose history was recorded in the epic 12th-century poem Nibelungenlied? If you are into exciting action stories including dwarves, dragons and bloodthirsty Überfrauen (superwomen), the Nibelungen Museum is a must-see! Interestingly, the museum also explains how the Nazis abused the myth for propaganda purposes.
And when the sun shines, there is nothing better than a stroll along the green Rhine Promenade. Join us on an adventure into Germany’s “Little Jerusalem” on the Rhine and discover Worms’ Jewish Heritage!