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Application for UNESCO World Heritage Status by the “ShUM Cities”

"ShUM Cities on the Rhine – A Jewish Heritage for the World”

They were once important seats of Jewish learning: the ShUM Cities Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Using this label and as “ShUM Cities on the Rhine – A Jewish Heritage for the World”, these cities, together with the Jewish communities and the State of Rhineland Palatinate, are seeking recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Worms synagogue (picture: R. Uhrig) 
Worms synagogue (picture: R. Uhrig)
Worms synagogue (picture: R. Uhrig) 
Worms synagogue (picture: R. Uhrig)
Jewish cemetery "Holy Sands", oldest jewish cemetery in Europe (picture: R. Uhrig) 
Jewish cemetery "Holy Sands", oldest jewish cemetery in Europe (picture: R. Uhrig)
new synagogue in Mainz 
new synagogue in Mainz
Blätter zum Land

Groundwork for inclusion in the German list of proposals

In 2004 the Lord Mayor of Worms, Michael Kissel, suggested that Speyer, Worms and Mainz as important ShUM cities for the development of Ashkenazic Judaism should pursue an application for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list. In 2005, which was “Rashi Year“, this initiative from Worms was intensified, and after careful study and consultation with the cities concerned, the Prime Minister of the State of Rhineland Palatinate included the plan in the programme of his government.

An application to include the ShUM project in the German list of proposals was made at the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in autumn 2012. In 2014, the ShUM cities had overcome the first hurdle. Together with eight other proposals, the State of Rhineland Palatinate had applied for inclusion of the ShUm cities in the UNESCO list of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. The ShUM Cities are ranked 5th in this list. The State of Rhineland Palatinate must now put together a detailed application for the World Heritage Committee by 2020. The UNESCO is expected to decide on the inclusion of the ShUM cities in the World Heritage list one year later.

If the ShUM Cities become a World Heritage site, the following tasks will be intensified: preservation, tourism and mediation, a dialogue on questions concerning the relationship between cultures and religions, and a debate on the importance of Jewish traditions and Jewish learning both in the past and for the present.

The highest authority on religious/cultural and legal matters

In 1146 an assembly in Troyes granted the rabbinates of these three cities on the Rhine the highest authority on religious/cultural and legal matters. The regulations that were worked out here were considered binding and were set down in writing in the “Takkanot-ShUM” at a further assembly in Mainz in 1220.

Worms has the oldest surviving monument in the ShUM tradition, namely the Jewish Cemetery Holy Sands. The former Jewish quarter, with its Judengasse (“Jews’ Alley“), the medieval synagogue rebuilt in 1961 and the Jewish Museum in the Rashi House, is in terms of its structure still clearly recognizable. The hall of mourning in the Art Nouveau style, which is on the new Jewish cemetery, is also a monument worthy of special note.

Scientific research

The main focus of preparations has so far been on scientific study of the gravestones in the Holy Sands cemetery, and this will be documented, among other ways, by the publication of a book.
A workshop for students in September 2010, which was organized together with the German National Committee of ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), was concerned with ideas for the development of the Jewish quarter from the point of view of city planning.

A conference on the ShUM cities organized by the State of Rhineland Palatinate’s preservation of monuments section was held in the “Landesmuseum” (“Museum of the State of Rhineland Palatinate”) in Mainz in autumn 2011.

86,000 visitors every year

About 86,000 visitors every year come to the Jewish sites in Worms, including the Jewish Museum, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and the first Jewish place of worship in Germany to be rebuilt after the end of the war. To this number must be added those who come to the Festival of Jewish Culture (the “jüdische Kulturtage“) every year in September as well as to other events organized by the society Warmaisa, the Jewish Community, and the City of Worms.

A working group is dealing with the World Heritage application

A working group consisting of city employees who work in the city archives, the city planning department, the tourism section and the marketing section is now considering the details of measures to structure and refine the profile for Worms in the World Heritage application.

Michael Kissel has appointed the head of the Institute for City History, Professor Gerold Bönnen, as representative of the city with responsibility for the World Heritage application, and the coordinator for culture in the mayor’s office, Volker Gallé, is general manager in charge of the project. The cultural and tourist aspects of the activities offered by the City of Worms will be the result of a target group analysis.

“The first thing that must be focussed on is the harmonization of individual profiles of the three cities Speyer, Mainz and Worms at federal state level in an overall concept for the Rhineland Palatinate,” said Michael Kissel.

You can read more in a publication of the “Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Rheinland-Pfalz” (the Centre for Political Education in the State of Rhineland Palatinate), namely the “Blätter zum Land” (the Papers on the Federal State):

The ShUM Cities Speyer, Worms and Mainz – on the way to becoming a Cultural Heritage site


Contact for information about ShUM Cities:

SchUM-Städte e.V.
Susanne Urban
Haus zur Sonne
Synagogenplatz 2
67547 Worms


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