SPEYER (Hebrew, ):

The Jewish Quarter.

Bishopric of Rhenish Bavaria. The first mention of a Jewish community in Speyer occurs during the episcopate of Bishop Rüdiger, who officiated from 1073 to 1090. He admitted several Jewish refugees, and assigned them, together with the Jews already settled there, a special quarter, which he enclosed with a wall for the sake of protection. This quarter consisted of a hill and a valley outside the city proper. In order further to protect the Jews, he granted them, on Sept. 13, 1084, a special privilege on condition that they should pay 3½ pounds of Speyer money annually to the cloisters. The Jews were also allowed to trade in the harbor in all kinds of goods, and to exchange gold and silver; they received as their special property a burial-ground from the estates of the Church; the chief rabbi was given absolute jurisdiction in all cases arising among them; and they were permitted to hire Christian servants and nurses, and to sell to Christians such meat as they themselves did not use.

The Charter.

Henry III. confirmed (Feb. 19, 1090) and even extended grants which had been made to the Jews, in particular to Judah ben Kalonymus, David ben Meshullam, and Moses ben Ghutiel (Jekuthiel). The forcible baptism of any of the children of those specifically mentioned was made punishable by a fine of twelve pounds gold, while the baptism of a heathen slave entailed a fine of three pounds silver and the return of the slave to his owner. The Jews in general were forbidden to purchase Christian slaves. It was enacted that in suits at law a Jewish witness might not be subjected to the ordeal of red-hotiron or of water or to exceptionally harsh imprisonment. Violation of these decrees was declared punishable by a fine of three pounds silver. For injuries to a Jew not resulting in death a fine of one pound gold was imposed. If the guilty person was unable to pay the fine, his eyes were to be put out and his right hand cut off. In proceedings against Jews the Jew bishop or the bishop of the diocese was to preside. This privilege was signed by the emperor himself. But neither the original charter nor its reenactment proved sufficient to afford the Jews adequate protection.

The Crusades.

In 1096 Speyer was the very first town in which Jews suffered at the hands of the Crusaders, eleven being slain ("Ben Chananja," 1864, No. 5; comp. Salfeld, "Martyrologium," p. 102). Of the Jews who escaped some sought refuge in the king's palace; others were protected by Bishop John (1090-1104) in the cathedral. The instigators of the riot were caught and executed. During the Second Crusade (1146) a fresh butchery occurred in the city, in which not only laymen but also members of the clergy took part. For this affair Bishop Günther received a letter of reproach from Bernard of Clairvaux. Among the martyrs who suffered death on this occasion was a woman named Minna, whose ears and tongue were cut off because she refused to submit to baptism (1146).

Still worse were the excesses which took place fifty years later. During the rule of Bishop Otto (1195), a Christian having been found murdered outside the city walls, the Jews were relentlessly persecuted. The corpse of the recently murdered daughter of Rabbi Isaac bar Asher ha-Levi was disinterred and hanged in the market-place, a mouse being fastened to her hair; and only by paying a large sum of money did the father succeed in redeeming the body. On the following day the rabbi himself and eight other persons were murdered. Many Jews sought refuge on the high balcony of the synagogue, pulling the ladder up after their ascent; in this terrible position they were forced to remain until R. Hezekiah ben Reuben of Boppard and R. Moses ben Joseph ha-Kohen effected their release by paying an enormous ransom. The Jews thereupon fled in the darkness of night; and their houses were plundered and burned. But when Emperor Henry VI. returned from Apulia the murderers were compelled to pay damages to him as well as to the Jews. In 1282 the Jews were accused by Herbord, Ritter von der Ohm, of having murdered his grandson, and such a storm of rage broke out against them that Bishop Werner found himself compelled to lay the matter before the provincial synod of Aschaffenburg (Sept. 8). A direct account of these proceedings is not available, but in the following year (1283) Emperor Rudolph approved the decision reached, and ordered that all the property taken from the Jews should revert to the royal treasury. The persecution continued unabated, however, wherefore the Jews of Speyer decided to emigrate to the Holy Land; a few of them succeeded in carrying out this resolve, whereupon their property was confiscated. On June 24, 1291, Emperor Rudolph issued an order requiring the Jews of Speyer to maintain by extra taxes the newly established Fort Landau and the militia garrisoned there. Bishop Gerhard sold the Jewish taxes of Landau to a citizen of that place (1354). The government taxes payable by the Jews of Speyer were conveyed on June 22, 1298, to the city for such a period as might be necessary to complete payment for the damage done by the imperial troops on their march through the city from Alsace. A document of May 13, 1313, has been preserved which ordered that in case the Jews refused to pay the sum of 1,500 pounds heller, which they had promised the emperor, the city council should have the right to pawn their property and to force them to payment through imprisonment; if any of them should succeed in escaping, the council might admit others as citizens in their places, as also in the places of such as protested against payment.

The Cemetery.

Ludwig the Bavarian utilized the Jewish cemetery at Speyer, which was surrounded by strong walls, as a fortification against Duke Leopold of Austria, who was pursuing him. Only thirteen tombstones from this cemetery have been preserved, the oldest of which dates from 1145; the others were used by the city until quite recent times for building purposes. The use which Bishop Enricho made of the Jewish taxes caused a complaint to be brought against him by the entire diocese, which accused him (1320) of subsisting solely on the usury of the Jews. Bishop Gerhard of Ehrenburg induced Ludwig the Bavarian to issue two decrees: (1) admitting six more Jews to the city and appropriating their taxes for the good of the diocese (June 2, 1337); (2) imposing taxes not only on the Jews of Speyer, but also on those of Landau, Lauterburg, Deidesheim, Bruchsal, Waibstadt, and Udenheim (Nov. 15, 1337). These taxes were collected by Gerhard until 1343, the city of Speyer paying 600 pounds heller for protection and in direct taxes, while the other towns contributed the sum of 700 pounds.

The Black Death.

A great calamity befell the Jews in Easter week, 1343, when the body of a Christian named Ludwig was found. A large number of Jews were captured, tortured, and burned at the stake. On March 11, 1344, the citizens requested the king's permission to confiscate the houses of the Jews for the benefit of the city; and this request was granted. The Black Death (1348-50) was fateful also for the Jews of Speyer. On Jan. 22, 1349, nearly all the Jews, among whom was Rabbi Eliakim, retired to their houses, set fire to them, and perished in the flames. The corpses of those who had been burned or murdered were left in the streets so long that the citizens were obliged to pack them in empty winecasks and throw them into the Rhine. The whole Jewish quarter was thereupon closed, servants being detailed to collect any treasure that might be found. The houses were torn down and the materials used to repair the city walls; and all money found was turned into the municipal treasury. The few Jewish families which escaped fled to Heidelberg and Sinzheim. When Emperor Charles IV. visited Speyer and inquired into these occurrences, the citizenssucceeded in convincing him of their innocence; and on March 29, 1349, the emperor issued a decree exonerating the citizens and declaring all the property of the Jews to belong to the city. If the latter at any time readmitted Jews, the former were to become the absolute property of the municipality.

Expulsion and Return.

Within a short time the Jews were permitted to return to Speyer; and though in 1353 they were again expelled from the city, their houses being distributed among the citizens and their cemetery planted with corn, in the following year they were once more readmitted, and were assigned quarters between the Webergasse and the school-building. On Dec. 24, 1354, they were allowed to use their synagogue and school, as well as part of their cemetery; and their "Dantzhus" or "Brutehus" was given back to them. Ten years later Bishop Adolph borrowed the sum of 800 gulden from the Jews, paying them a weekly interest of one Strasburg pfennig. When Nicolaus succeeded to the bishopric (1390) he granted the Jews permission to settle in any city within the diocese on payment of a yearly tribute of 15 gulden. Of the income thus derived one-half went to the garrison and the remaining half to the diocese. In 1394 King Wenceslaus renewed the decree which declared the Jews to be the property of the city.

From 1405 to 1421 the Jews were entirely excluded from the city. But that they were soon readmitted is evident from the fact that on Feb. 11, 1431, King Sigismund granted them a privilege ordering that any complaint brought against them should be heard only before the municipal court. Four years later, however, the authorities had to yield to the demands of the citizens, and the following decree of expulsion was issued on May 5, 1435:

Final Expulsion.

"The council is compelled to banish the Jews; but it has no designs upon their lives or their property: it only revokes their rights of citizenship and of settlement. Until Nov. 11 they are at liberty to go whither they please with all their property, and in the meantime they may make final disposition of their business affairs."

For a long time after the Jews left Speyer in compliance with this decree, no organized community existed within the limits of the city, although individual Jews settled there before twenty years had passed.


Formerly it was the custom that upon the entry into the city of a new bishop the Jews should meet him in procession and present him with a gift; and this custom was observed by the Jews of Landau on March 27, 1439, upon the entry of Bishop Reinhard, and in Oct., 1459, on the entry of John II. After the lapse of many years this custom fell into disuse. The taxes levied upon the Jews of the diocese were constantly increased; thus, in the years 1464-78, under Bishop Mathias, the Jews of Landau were required to make an annual payment of 120 pounds heller for the right of retaining their ghetto. The same bishop ordered all the Jews of his diocese to submit to baptism, and upon their refusal to comply he issued (Oct. 21, 1468) a decree containing, among others, the following provisions: All male Jews over five years old were required to wear on their breasts, as a distinctive badge, a piece of yellow cloth in the shape of a wheel; all Jewesses of similar age, two blue stripes on their veils. Jews might take no part in public gatherings or entertainments; they might keep no Christian servants; nor might they have schools or synagogues of their own. They might not occupy dwellings in various portions of the city, but should live close together; on high Christian festivals they were not to appear upon the streets; and they were forbidden to engage in monetary transactions. Any person violating these rules was to be summoned before the bishop at Udenheim. This decree was renewed by that prelate on Dec. 24, 1468, and Dec. 30, 1472. The only modification which the Jews, by gifts of money, succeeded in securing was the permission to have one synagogue in each town, this concession being granted by the bishop in 1469. The number of Jewish families in Speyer at this period, according to the testimony of Schudt ("Jüdische Merckwürdigkeiten," i. 440), did not exceed ten.

In the Seventeenth Century.

For the following two centuries the internal affairs of the Jews were administered by the rabbi of Worms, who received an annual sum of 10 reichsthaler as compensation, the small community not being able to maintain a rabbi of its own. Official permission was required on the occasion of visits by the rabbi, and documents according such permission have been preserved from 1682, 1685, 1698, 1713, and 1746: in the last-named reference is made to "our rabbi David Strauss of Worms." From the year 1752 the Jews were forbidden, on pain of severe punishment, to solicit the services of any rabbi other than their own. The first rabbi of the diocese was Isaac Weil (1750-63); he was succeeded in the office by Löwin Löb Calvaria, provision for whose salary was made by a bequest in the testament of one Süssle.

Episcopal edicts in 1717, 1719, 1722, 1726, 1727, 1728, 1736, 1741, and 1748 prohibited Gipsies and Jews having no safe-conducts from visiting the estates belonging to the diocese; and those that were provided with safe-conducts were required, for sanitary reasons, to submit their bundles or packages to a rigid examination. The present community of Speyer is young, and its documents are consequently of recent dates.

Scholars and Rabbis.

The most prominent scholars of Speyer have been the following: In the eleventh century: Kalonymus ben Moses, Jekuthiel ben Moses, Moses ben Jekuthiel, Judah ben Kalonymus, and David ben Meshullam.

Twelfth century: Abraham ben Meïr ha-Kohen, Kalonymus ben Isaac, Jacob ben Isaac ha-Levi, Eleazar ha-Ḥazzan, Eliakim ha-Levi, R. Isaac ben Asher ha-Levi, Samuel ben Kalonymus, R. Abraham ben Solomon (), R. Isaac of Bohemia, Eliezer ben Isaac, Judah, Meïr ben Kalonymus, David of Speyer, Simḥah ben Samuel, R. Judah ben Kalonymus ha-Baḥur, Shemariah ben Mordecai, Eliezer ben Joel ha-Levi, Simḥah ben Samuel, and Abraham ben Samuel.

Speyer Pedigree.

Thirteenth century: Eleazar ben Jacob, Jacob of Speyer, R. Jedidiah benIsrael, and Solomon of Speyer.

Fourteenth century: Moses Süsslin, later "Judenmeister" in Frankfort-on-the-Main.

Fifteenth century: Samuel Isaac ha-Ḳadosh and Shemariah Salman = ha-Levi (Zunz, "Ritus," p. 200).

Of the cities formerly belonging to the diocese of Speyer may be mentioned: Speyer, included in the district rabbinate of Durkheim. The present rabbi is Dr. Wolf Salvendi, and the community numbers 874 Jews and supports six benevolent societies. Deidesheim, with 50 Jewish inhabitants. Landau, having 874 Jews and five benevolent societies. Its present rabbi is Dr. V. Einstein. Bruchsal, with 741 Jews and eight societies, under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Doctor.

  • Zunz, Ritus, p. 200;
  • idem, Z. G. p. 415;
  • Kohut, Gesch. der Deutschen Juden, Index, s.v.;
  • Wiener, 'Emeḳ ha-Baka, p. 9, Leipsic, 1858;
  • idem, Gesch. der Juden in der Stadt und Diöcese Speier, in Monatsschrift, 1863, pp. 161, 255, 297, 417, 454;
  • Jaffé, Urkunde des Bischop Rüdiger vom 13 September, 1084, in Orient, Lit. 1842, No. 46;
  • idem, Urkunde Heinrich III. vom 19 Februar, 1090, ib. 1842, No. 47;
  • H. Breslau, Diplomatische Erläuterungen zum Judenprivilegium Heinrich IV. in Zeitschrift für Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, i. 152-159;
  • Stobbe, Die Judenprivilegium Heinrich IV. für Speier und Worms, ib. i. 205-215;
  • idem, Die Juden in Deutschland Während des Mittelalters, Index, s.v., Brunswick, 1866;
  • Berliner, Eliakim von Speyer, in Monatsschrift, 1868, pp. 182-183;
  • Kaufmann, Die Hebräischen Urkunden des Stadt Speier, ib. 1886, pp. 517-520;
  • A. Eppstein, Jüdische Alterthümer in Worms und Speyer, pp. 13-31, Breslau, 1896;
  • L. Rothschild, Die Judengemeinden in Mainz, Speier, und Worms, 1349-1438, Berlin, 1904;
  • Neubauer and Stern, Hebräische Berichte, Index, s.v., Berlin, 1902;
  • Salfeld, Martyrologium, pp. 91, 101, 246;
  • E. Zivier, in Monatsschrift, xlix. 225-226;
  • Doctor, in Blätter für Jüdische Geschichte und Literatur, Mayence, v., No. 7, pp. 102-104.
J. S. O.