Early History.

Town in Rhein-Hesse, grand duchy of Hesse, Germany. Like Mayence and Cologne, it has one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. A legend relates that the Jews of Worms were descended from the Benjamites who had migrated from Palestine to Germany (Brüll's "Jahrbücher," 1879, iv. 34 et seq.). It is possible that there was a congregation there in the time of the Romans, but the first historical reference is the statement that Jews from this city visited the fair at Cologne about the year 1000 (Aronius, "Regesten," No. 149; Kober, "Studien zur Mittelalterlichen Geschichte der Juden in Köln am Rhein," p. 9, note 3, Breslau, 1903). The earliest authentic information regarding the community, however, dates back only to 1034. On Jan. 18, 1074, Emperor Henry IV. granted the "Jews and other citizens of Worms" exemption from customs duties in the royal-customs ports of Frankfort, Boppard, Dortmund, Goslar, etc., as a reward for their fidelity. Already at this time the Jews lived in a special quarter of the city. About 1090 Henry IV. granted the community, which was represented by the Jew-bishop Solomon, the privileges of free commerce and exemption from taxation; he designated the Jews as "subjects of his treasury," and placed them under his immediate protection, so that neither royal nor episcopal functionaries could exercise any jurisdiction over them, their only authority being the Bishop of the Jews, appointed by themselves, and confirmed in his office by the emperor. These privileges were renewed by the emperors Frederick I., Barbarossa (April 6, 1157), and Frederick II. (about 1236).

Exterior of the Old Synagogue at Worms.(From a drawing by C. Gross Mayer.)Taxation.

On May 18 and 25, 1096, the Crusaders murdered all the Jews of Worms—about 800 in number—with the exception of some who committed suicide and a few who were forcibly baptized. Later a new community was formed in Worms; and this suffered during the Second Crusade (1146), and again in 1196, when the victims included Dulcina, wife of R. Eleazar, his daughters Belat and Hannah, and his son Jacob. During the division of the kingdom at the close of the twelfth century Worms was besieged by King Otto, and the Jews, who sided with Philip of Swabia, took part in the defense. On July 8, 1230, Pope Honorius III. issued from San Rieti an order directing the Archbishop of Mayence to compel the community to pay the sum of 1,620 marks before the following Easter, threatening it with exclusion from all dealings with Christians if it failed to raise the amount. In 1241 the state taxes of the Jews of Worms amounted to 130 marks in silver, and on Feb. 28, 1255, Bishop Richard ofWorms transferred to the chapter of the local cathedral, among other revenues from the city, the sum of 40 pounds heller which the congregation was obliged to pay annually on St. Martin's Day (Nov. 11). Between 1254 and 1271 the Jews of Worms were taxed 2,870 pounds heller and 250 marks in silver for the public peace insured by the Rhenish Alliance; and from 1269 to 1275 they were compelled to pay 200 marks annually to King Richard of Cornwall. In 1294 orders were issued by King Adolphus and by the bishop, forbidding the Jews to acquire real estate in the parish of St. Martin. By an edict dated March 9, 1316, Louis the Bavarian granted the city of Worms the privilege of levying on the Jewish community a yearly tax of 100 pounds heller in addition to the 300 pounds it had thitherto paid; and on May 1, 1338, he informed the council of Worms that the Jews of that city were bound by agreement to pay the sum of 2,000 gulden toward the king's contemplated expedition against France, and that, if necessary, force might be employed in collecting this sum.

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries.

By an edict dated at Speyer Jan. 4, 1348, the emperor Charles IV. surrendered the Jews of Worms to the city government, but on March 1, 1349, at the time of the Black Death, the community was practically annihilated, the Jews setting fire to their houses, and more than 400 persons perishing in the flames. The women's wing of the synagogue, added in 1213 through the munificence of Meïr and his wife, Judith, was also destroyed. An edict of Charles IV., dated March 29, 1349, gave to the citizens of Worms the property left by the Jewish community; but a few years later (1353) the city desired to again admit Jews, and on Nov. 20, 1355, Charles IV. allowed it to grant them the right of residence. In May, 1377, the Jewish community of Worms, numbering thirty-six persons, pledged itself, in a Hebrew document addressed to the city council, to pay in "voluntary" taxes the sum of 20,000 gulden; and in the following year (Aug. 28, 1378) the city was granted the right of extending protection to the Jews. This privilege was renewed by King Wenceslaus on May 5, 1400, after he had already ordered the city (by edict dated April 22, 1391) to afford protection to his "Kammerknechte," as he styled the Jews. On March 17, 1398, the city council enacted that every Jew or Jewess over twelve should pay one old tournois in Leibzoll, but not one farthing more. On Oct. 31, 1400, King Ruprecht confirmed the privileges granted the Jews of Worms by Henry IV., by virtue of which they were allowed to exchange money in any part of the city, except in front of the mint or in the minters' offices of exchange. The same king enacted also, by a decree dated at Heidelberg July 29, 1406, that the Jews of Worms might be tried only by the municipal court, a privilege which was at first granted for a period of six years only, but was extended by King Sigismund (1414).

Sixteenth Century. Exterior of the Old Synagogue at Worms.(From a photograph.)

In 1409 the Jews of Worms were accused of the murder of a Christian child, but as there was no evidence against them, they were acquitted by the council, although they lost part of their property. In 1422 the community, encouraged by the council, refused to pay the "Hussite taxes," and was therefore outlawed by King Sigismund, who, through the margrave of Baden, confiscated and sold the houses vacated by the Jews. On Aug. 1, 1431, King Sigismund assured the Jews of Worms that all edicts annulling the outstanding debts owed them would be declared invalid upon the payment by each Jew of an indemnity. This caused an uprising among the peasantry, which was, however, speedily quelled, the ringleaders being punished. Two years later (1433) the community presented Sigismund with the sum of 20 florins as a coronation tribute, andpromised to pay an additional 100 florins in the middle of the following Lent. On Nov. 6, 1441, regulations referring to the Jews were enacted by the gilds of the bakers, butchers, and marketmen. About 1470 the Jews of Worms occupied thirty-two houses, for which they paid the city a ground rent of 960 gulden. In 1484 the citizens of Worms wished to expel the Jews, but this was prevented by the emperor, and ten years later (June 14, 1494) Maximilian confirmed the Jews in all their privileges, while on April 4, 1500, he forbade the city to encroach upon the imperial prerogative concerning them. In 1495, and again in 1496, the palsgrave Philip and his son, Duke Ludwig, visited the "Judenschul" at Worms (Boos, "Urkundenbuch der Stadt Worms," iii. 395, 401). In 1509 complaint was lodged against the Jews of Worms charging them with violence against messengers of the imperial court. In the following year (1510) Emperor Maximilian gave the community permission to hold a public meeting in Worms ("Sulamith," 1811, iii. 416 et seq.; Hormayr's "Archiv," 1812, iii., Nos. 11, 12). On Nov. 22, 1559, Ferdinand I. issued from Vienna an order to the city council of Worms, directing it, under penalty of heavy punishment, to protect the Jews in all their privileges during the quarrel between the city and Bishop Dietrich, and forbidding the levying of any special taxes. Ordinances regulating Jewish affairs were issued by the council of Worms on Dec. 6, 1570; Nov. 1, 1584; Dec. 23, 1605; as well as in later years.

During the Thirty Years' War. Cemetery at Worms.(From a photograph.)

In 1615 some members of the city magistracy, especially Dr. Chemnitz, advocated the expulsion of the Jews from Worms, whereupon the elector Frederick took the congregation under his protection; the opposition of the gilds, however, forced the Jews to emigrate (April 20, 1615), after which their synagogue was demolished, the cemetery laid waste, and the tombstones destroyed. After the suppression of the uprising by the troops of Frederick, an imperial decree was promulgated (Jan. 19 or 20, 1616) ordering both the palsgrave and the Bishop of Speyer to readmit the Jews; in commemoration of this event the eve of the Feast of Shebaṭ was designated as a fast-day for the community of Worms. During the Thirty Years' war the Jews of the city were compelled to pawn even the silver of the synagogue in order to raise the manifold contributions exacted from them. At the same time they suffered from a pestilence which raged in the Jewish quarter in 1632 and 1635; and Emperor Ferdinand II. therefore issued an edict (Vienna, May 16, 1636) directing the council of Worms to be lenient in levying taxes upon the Jews, and ordering the release of Jews who had been imprisoned on account of inability to pay. Three years later Ferdinand III. gave his nephew Anselm Casimir, Elector of Mayence, full authority to appoint a committee consisting of the Bishop of Worms, the Prince of Dalberg, and the council and Jews of Worms, or their representatives, for the purpose of framing new Jewish regulations. On May 31, 1689, the city of Worms was invaded by the French under Melac, and at the same time a terrible catastrophevisited the Jews. The entire Jewry, which displayed the imperial arms on both gates, was burned, together with the interior of the synagogue, and the so-called Rashi Chapel. The ruins of the synagogue were used as a stable and storehouse. In 1698 a committee was formed for the purpose of restoring the Jewish community of Worms, which had been broken up by the French in vasion. By an agreement dated June 7, 1699, the council of Worms pledged itself to grant the Jews certain concessions, and this arrangement was confirmed by Joseph I. (April 19, 1707) in order to protect the Jews against any infringements of their rights on the part of the council; it was later approved also by Emperor Charles VI. (Oct. 26, 1714).

In 1751 one-fifth of the revenues of the city of Worms was furnished by the Jewish taxes. The treaty of 1699 was again confirmed by a decree dated at Vienna March 10, 1766 ("Jeschurun," iv. 99 et seq.). In 1872 a Jew named Edinger represented Worms in the Hessian Diet, while Levy was second mayor. In 1874, prior to the enactment of the new liberal school law, S. Rothschild was appointed teacher in the non-sectarian school.

The Jewish community of Worms, which in 1875 numbered 1,000 members, consists now (1905))of about 1,200. In addition to a large number of other institutions, the city has a Jewish hospital, a ḥebra ḳaddisha, a society for the support of sick women, an endowment society, a society for the distribution of fuel, and an association for the support of school children. There is also the Dalberg Lodge of the Order B'nai B'rith.

D. A. Lew.Social Condition.

Until the close of the twelfth century the Jews of Worms engaged in extensive and remunerative business enterprises, but through restrictive measures these were gradually rendered unprofitable, and at length only trading in money was left open to them. In 1165 even this branch of business was denied them, and during the thirteenth century more and more of them engaged in usury. In 1255 orders were issued regulating the interest on loans, and the Jews were thereby prohibited, under pain of severe punishment, from charging more than 33⅓ per cent per annum.

During the Middle Ages the Jews, as citizens of Worms, were permitted to acquire real estate; they might even occupy the commons (that is, territory belonging to the commonwealth), until Adolf of Nassau on July 28, 1294, issued an order against this. In spite of their various privileges, however, the Jews might not dwell among the Christians, but were assigned a special quarter of the town, separated from the Christians by walls and gates. These gates had various names, of which may be mentioned "Porta Judæorum," "Juden Borter," and "Juden Burgetor." The synagogue formed the center of the Jewish quarter. It was erected in 1034 through the munificence of a wealthy Jew, Mar Jacob, and his wife, Rachel; and in spite of the many accidents that have befallen it in the course of time its appearance has changed but little. It is built in early Moorish style, and was originally intended for men only. It had three entrances. The apse for the Torah scrolls consisted of a semicircular protuberance of the wall. The women's wing of the synagogue, connecting with the northern wall of the older structure, was built in 1213. The men's synagogue had five inscriptions; the women's, four.

Rashi Chapel. Michael Gernsheim, a Judenbischof of Worms, Seventeenth Century.(From a drawing in possession of M. Gernsheim, New York.)

Prominent in the legendary and historic accounts of the Jews of Worms is the so-called Rashi Chapel, built in 1624 by David ben Isaac Joseph Oppenheim. This building was erected so close to the synagogue that it prevented the use of one of the entrances of the latter. The fact that Rashi lived for a short while in Worms, where he was a pupil of Isaac ha-Levi, gave rise to the legend that he taught in the edifice erected 500 years after his death. According to a report by Juspa Shammes (1648-78), in which mention is made of a "prayer-house of Rashi," the congregation took occasion to place an inscription in the building, which they termed the Rashi Chapel. Abraham Epstein of Vienna discovered in a niche of the Rashi Chapel an inscription designating the niche as the seat of David Oppenheim. The synagogue and the chapel stand in a court, and are surrounded by one wall. Inside this court is a square space enclosed by a wall two meters high, and in which there formerly grew a nut-tree. The use and purpose of this space can no longer be determined.From the chapel a path inside the courtyard led to the Judenbäder, which were located underground. In 1895 the work of excavating them was begun, but they are not yet accessible.


The cemetery dates from the first half of the eleventh century, and is located on the left side of the present Andreasstrasse, near the old Andreas gate. The oldest tombstone bears date of 1077, and is that of one Jacob Baḥur. Of other tombstones may be mentioned a monument erected in honor of twelve elders of whom a legend reports that, during the Crusade of 1096, they asked the town councilors for protection, and, on being refused, murdered the councilors, whereupon they all committed suicide in the cemetery. There are also the tombstones of Jekuthiel ben Jacob (1261); Baruch ben Meïr, father of Meïr of Rothenburg (1275); and Meïr of Rothenburg (1307); a tombstone of four sisters, with inscriptions arranged in four rows (1419); and also those of Jacob Mölln (1427) and Juspa Shammes (1678). Mention may be made also of thirteen inscriptions relating to members of the Bacharach family (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries). The Jewish congregation of Worms had its own public park, for the care of which each member had to contribute a yearly sum fixed by the Jewish council. The guarding and keeping of the park devolved upon the communal servant, who officiated as "schulklopfer" and sexton also.


The internal affairs of the community were arranged by a Jewish council of twelve members headed by the Bishop of the Jews. This institution dated back to the eleventh century. The Jewish bishop was elected by the council, and his appointment originally had to be sanctioned by the emperor. On July 25, 1312, however, Bishop Emerich ordered that the Jew-bishop should no longer be confirmed in his office by the emperor, but by the bishop of the diocese; and also that a Jew-bishop once appointed should retain his title until his death, although his official duties should each year devolve on another member of the council. On the death of a Jew-bishop the new appointee was to pay to the bishop 60 pounds Worms pfennigs; this stipulation, however, was changed by Bishop Frederick (Feb. 8, 1439), who ordered that the Jewish community should pay 20 florins each year on St. Martin's Day, in lieu of the former payment.

Next to the communities of Mayence and Speyer, that of Worms occupied the most prominent place in the fields of science and literature, and many of the foremost Lorrainese savants were born in Worms; it was from that city also that the most famous "taḳḳanot Shum" were issued. Among the most prominent rabbis and scholars of Worms may be mentioned:

  • Isaac ben Eleazar ha-Levi, Rashi's teacher (11th cent.);
  • Isaac ben Judah, a contemporary of Rashi;
  • Eleazar ben Judah Roḳeaḥ (13th cent.);
  • Moses ben Aaron, teacher of the last-named (d. 1240);
  • Baruch ben Meïr, father of Meïr of Rothenburg (d. 1275);
  • Nathan ben Isaac (d. 1333), Jacob Mölln (d. 1427);
  • Meïr ben Isaac (1511);
  • Abraham Samuel Bacharach (d. 1615);
  • Elijah Loanz (d. 1636);
  • Simson Bacharach (d. 1670);
  • Aaron Teomim (rabbi until 1687; d. Cracow, 1690);
  • Jair Ḥayyim Bacharach (rabbi, 1689-1702);
  • Naphtali Hirsch Spitz (d. 1712);
  • Menahem Mendel Rothschild (d. 1732);
  • Moses Broda of Ungarisch-Brod (d. 1742);
  • Hirsch Auerbach of Brody (1743-78).

Worms had the distinction of having the first Jewish mayor in Germany in the person of Ferdinand Eberstadt (born there Oct., 1808; died at Mannheim March 10, 1888). He was elected to the mayoralty in 1848, having proved himself a leader in the liberal movement of the time. He held office till 1851, when, owing to the reaction, he resigned, and later removed to Mannheim. He represented the same district, Alzey-Worms-Oppenheim, in the upper house of the Hessian Landtag.

Interior of the Old Synagogue at Worms.(From an old lithograph.)Juspa Shammes.

A man of considerable importance in the history of the Jews of Worms was the sexton and "schulklopfer" Jephthah Juspa ben Naphtali, known also by the name Juspa Shammes. He was born in Fulda in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and studied until 1623 under R. Phinehas Horwitz in his native town. In that year he went to Worms, where he remained until his death in 1678.He was the author of the following works: (1) "Shir Musar" (Amsterdam, 1690), a poem on morals; printed on one folio sheet. (2) "Ma'ase Nissim" (Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1702), a Hebrew work in which history and fiction are intermingled, and of which only one copy is extant (in Oxford). It was translated into Judæo-German (Amsterdam, 1723; Homburg, 1725; Fürth, 1767). (3) A "Teḥinnah" for the eve of the first day of the month of Adar; still recited in Worms on that day. His work on the internal organization of the Jewish community of Worms, written in Hebrew and in Judæo-German, is in the possession of A. Epstein of Vienna.

Interior View of Women's Section in the Old Synagogue at Worms.(From an old lithograph.)
  • Zunz, Z. G. pp. 29-60, 304-459;
  • Lewysohn, Nafshot Ẓaddiḳim, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1855;
  • Rothschild, Die Judengemeinden zu Mainz, Speyer und Worms, Berlin, 1904;
  • Carlebach, Die Rechtlichen und Sozialen Verhältnisse der Jüdischen Gemeinden Speyer, Worms, und Mainz, Leipsic, 1901;
  • Jellinek, Worms und Wien, Vienna, 1880;
  • Epstein, Jüdische Alterthümer in Worms und Speyer, pp. 1-13, Breslau, 1896;
  • Aronius, Regesten;
  • Saalfeld, Martyrologium;
  • Breslau, in Hebr. Bibl. x.;
  • G. Wolf, Zur Gesch. der Juden in Worms und des Deutschen Städtewesens, Breslau, 1862;
  • Wiener, in Israelitisches Literaturblatt, 1878, No. 16;
  • Berliner, Aus dem Inneren Leben, 1871, p. 9.
J. S. O.