City in Rhenish Prussia. It had a Jewish community at an early date. Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn (b. 1133), as a boy of thirteen, was among the Jews who, in September, 1146, sought refuge from the Crusaders in the fortress Wolkenberg near Königswinter. He has left a graphic description of the persecutions under the Crusades. He is also known as a Talmudic and liturgic writer. The Tosafist Joel ben Isaac of Bonn, author of several seliḥot, also lived about this time. Jews of Bonn are often mentioned in the Jewish congregational archives of Cologne during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In June, 1288, calamity fell upon the community, and many Jews, including Rabbi Meïr ben Alexander, who had formerly been rabbi at Cologne, were slain. New sorrows came with the persecutions during the Black Death, Bonn being one of the places of martyrdom in the year 1349. The Jews of Bonn were further oppressed by taxes, as the emperor Frederick I. compelled them to pay 400 marks to the archbishop of Cologne.
The community, which was not an unimportant one in the Middle Ages, was considerably increased by the Jews expelled from Cologne in 1426; it was estimated to number 200 persons, and had to pay a yearly assessment of 1,500 reichsgulden. Documents show that the present "Judenauergasse" was called "Judengasse" in 1578.Persecutions.
In 1587 Martin Schenk, whom Queen Elizabeth of England had sent to aid the party of the lord high steward, took possession of Bonn, murdered and plundered in the Jews' quarter, and made many prisoners, who subsequently had to be ransomed for large sums. Among the prisoners was Rabbi Reuben Fulda, the teacher of the historiographer David Gans. The baptized butcher Kraus, who has become proverbial through his denunciations, was also a native of Bonn. In the first half of the seventeenth century he kept the Jews on the Rhine in a continuous state of terror. Another native of Bonn was Abraham Breitingen, father-in-law of the Frankfort scholar Juspa Hahn; he as syndic successfully opposed Kraus.
The Jews fared better during the Thirty Years' war. The above-mentioned Hahn narrates that the Protestants of Bonn hid their property in the ghetto. Later, however, the Jews were subjected to many annoyances. In 1651 their cattle trade was restricted, all Jews not under the protection of the government were expelled, and the maximum rate of interest which they were permitted to take was fixed at 12 per cent. In 1747 and 1750 electoral ordinances had to be issued prohibiting Christians from insulting and threatening Jews. In 1755, when severe earthquakes terrified the people of the Lower Rhine and Bonn, Rabbi Samuel Ashkenazi and Mordecai Halberstadt, rabbi at Düsseldorf, designated several psalms for a service of prayer, and wrote a penitential invocation ("teḥinnah") for the occasion. On Feb. 27, 1784, all the Jews fled from the ghetto, which was almost entirely destroyed by an overflow of the Rhine. In this time of distress Moses Wolf (died 1802), physician to the elector, and the president of the community, Baruch ben Simon, were especially conspicuous for their unselfish activity. Simon Kopenhagen of Bonn has described these occurrences in a Hebrew book entitled "Beḳi Naharot," Amsterdam, 1785. The French Revolution saved the Jews of Bonn.
In 1798 the great procession of the "Cisrhenanes," proceeding by way of the Vierecksplatz, went to the Judengasse, where they determined upon an especially solemn act, intended as an announcement to the Jews, by a memorable sign, that they would henceforth be citizens with equal rights. For this purpose several carpenters had been included in theprocession, who cut down the gate of the Jewry; Jewish girls were then taken into the procession and led triumphantly through the city. In 1808 the Jews were compelled to take personal names and surnames. The city of Bonn became the seat of a consistory founded by Napoleon. In 1865 a Jewish congregation was formed in conformity with the law of 1847: the new synagogue on the banks of the Rhine was dedicated in 1879. In 1902 the community numbered 900 persons.Scholars and Rabbis.
In the twelfth century the Tosafist Samuel ben Natronai, the halakist and liturgic poet Joel ben Isaac ha-Levi, and his friend Ephraim ben Jacob, also known as liturgic poet, lived at Bonn. In the fifteenth century the scholar Solomon of Bonn, and a teacher, Mordecai Sachs, were there. Reuben Fulda, as stated above, was rabbi there in the sixteenth century, and was succeeded by Ḥayyim Treves, son of Johanan Treves, known as a Maḥzor commentator, who died at Ahrweiler in 1598. Joseph Ashkenazi, who later was rabbi at Metz; Moses Birgel; Naphtali ben Kalonymus; and Judah Ashkenazi, who was buried at Bonn in 1688, were among the rabbis of the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century several physicians, including Moses ben Abraham Wolf (mentioned above), lived at Bonn. Among the rabbis was Judah Mehler, formerly rabbi at Cleve (born 1661 at Bingen; died at Bonn 1750). He was succeeded by Samuel Ashkenazi (d. 1766), formerly at Peine near Hildesheim; then came Isaac Rapoport, who died 1788. The first rabbi of the consistory was Simḥah Bunem Rapoport, appointed in 1788, died 1816; he was the author of several halakic works. He was followed by Abraham Auerbach, who, in 1837, resigned ostensibly on account of his great age, but really in order that his son might succeed him. In fact, he contrived to have his son elected as soon as he announced his resignation, without giving time to candidates to present themselves. This election caused much agitation in the community, and a protest against its illegality was brought before the president of the province of Cologne. A new election was ordered by the government, and Auerbach's son was elected for the second time. He was succeeded in 1877 by Emanuel Schreiber, and by Falk Cohn (1882-1902).
- Salfeld, Martyrologium, pp. 160, 287;
- Brisch, Gesch der Juden in Cöln und Umgebung, Cologne, 1879;
- Schreiber, Die Jüdische Gemeinde, Bonn, 1879;
- Tösten, Zur Gesch. der Hexen und Juden in Bonn, Bonn, 1900.