Worms (in Hebrew “Warmaisa”) as a centre of Jewish learning and culture
Between the turn of
the millenium and the time of National Socialism there was an unbroken period
with an important Jewish community in Worms, whose members were closely involved
in the history of the city.
The Holy Sands cemetery in Worms is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. It was in use from 1076/77 up to the early 20 th century and has survived without suffering significant damage. This cemetery near the former city wall has many thousands of visitors every year from all over the world.
In the northern part of the old city, nestling close to where the city wall once stood, is the former Jewish quarter, and many of the old buildings have at least partly been preserved. The synagogue (with one building for men and one for women) and the ritual bath (mikvah) formed the centre of flourishing Jewish life for many centuries.
There was a first synagogue here as long ago as 1034, and this is recorded on an inscription that has been preserved. A new place of worship was built in 1174/75, at the same time as the cathedral, and a women’s building was added at the beginning of the 13 th century. The synagogue was destroyed in the period of Nazi rule, rebuilt in 1961 and now serves its proper function again, although no new Jewish community has been formed since the war. The women’s bath (mikvah) dating from 1185/86 has survived undamaged.
Immediately next door to the synagogue and in the Rashi House is the Jewish Museum, which was established in 1982. In its historic building it contains documents on Jewish history and exhibits that illustrate the religious life of Jews in Worms. The building is named after Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak, who is known as Rashi.
In close association with the neighbouring communities in Speyer und Mainz and because of its numerous highly regarded rabbis, the Jewish community in Worms had a significant influence and a high reputation, which contributed to its honorary title “Little Jerusalem”.