Town of Württemberg in the district of the Neckar. There was an important community there in 1298, when Rindfleisch and his hordes slew nearly 200 Jews (Oct. 19). Among the victims were one rabbi and one punctator ("naḳdan"). At the beginning of the fourteenth century the Jews of Heilbronn paid taxes amounting to 666 2/3 florins (about $1,500). In 1316 they were turned over to the city by Ludwig the Bavarian for a period of six years, after the debts due them had been canceled, in recognition of the city's loyalty. By an agreement of July 8, 1322, between the city and Duke Frederick of Austria the citizens were released from liability for everything that they had taken from the Jews. In 1349 the latter were attacked in their street on the Hasenmarkt, their goods were plundered and burned, and their synagogue was set on fire; but in 1357 the community had built another. They suffered severely under the arbitrary decrees of King Wenceslaus; during the war between the Suabian towns; under the shameful policy, as regards the Jews, of kings Rupert and Sigismund; and during a war that had broken out on their account between the city and Heinrich Mosbach of Ems. At the end of the fifteenth century they were ordered to leave the city despite the repeated intercessions of Emperor Frederick III. The few Jews who still remained were expelled by the city council in 1523 and 1529, and down to the middle of the seventeenth century the municipal authorities refused to allow Jews to enter the town. In 1645 a few were admitted under special restrictions; in 1667 a very severe decree was issued regarding Jewish business men visiting the city. In the following century there were no Jews at Heilbronn, and not until the law of April 25, 1828, had raised the status of the Jews of Württmberg were they readmitted. On May 5, 1831, a Jew was made a citizen; in 1861 there were twenty-one Jewish families, who dedicated a synagogue on Nov. 21 of that year.
The scholars of Heilbronn during the Middle Ages included R. Johanan, son of R. Eliakim; the punctator Abraham, and the teacher Isaac, all of whom were murdered in 1298; the Talmudist Salomon Spira flourished there in the second half of the fifteenth century. In 1903 there were 920 Jews in a population of 37,889. They have a fine synagogue in the Moorish style, various philanthropic institutions, a society for the study of Jewish history and literature, and a B'nai B'rith lodge. Since 1864 Heilbronn has replaced Lehrensteinsfeld as the seat of the district rabbinate, which now includes the communities of Affaltrach-Eschenau, Bonfeld, Kochendorf, Neckarsulm, Lehrensteinsfeld, Weinsberg, Massenbach with Hausen, Oedheim, Oehringen, Sontheim, Horkheim, and Thalheim. Its present rabbi is L. Kahn (1903), his predecessors having been Moses Engelbert (1864-91) and Berthold Eisenstein (1891-92).
- Salfeld, Martyrologium;
- Jäger, Gesch. von Heilbronn, Heilbronn, 1828;
- Wiener, in Achawa-Jahrbuch, pp. 56 et seq., Leipsic, 1865;
- Statistisches Jahrb. des Deutsch-Israelitischen Gemeindebundes, Berlin, 1903.