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The Jewish Synagogue and the mikvah

For centuries and without interruption, this site was the focus of Jewish life. Following restoration work in the 70s and 80s, the former Jewish quarter can now be experienced in its original design.

Innenansicht der Synagoge (Foto: R. Uhrig) 
Inside the Synagogue (picture: R. Uhrig)
Synagoge - Mikwe (Foto: R. Uhrig) 
Synagoge - Mikvah (picture: R. Uhrig)

The first synagogue

Only the stone foundation panel of the first synagogue building (1034) has survived. After the destruction in the crusades of the 11 th and 12 th centuries, a new synagogue was built in the Romanesque style typical of the cathedral workshop. In 1212/13 an annexe, the “women’s synagogue“, was added to this “men’s synagogue“. This was followed in 1185/86 by the addition of an underground ritual bath, a mikvah. The men’s synagogue stands on two columns and has two naves, with the torah ark set in an apse. There were alterations as a result of several instances of damage (pogroms), and in 1624 a small yeshiva (Talmudic schoolroom) was added (called Rashi’s Chapel). This whole complex was the focal point of life for the ancient and important Jewish community in Worms. It was burned down and torn down between 1938 and 1942, and the synagogue was rebuilt using some of the original building material and then consecrated anew in 1961. There is no longer a Jewish community in Worms, and responsibility for the synagogue lies with the community in Mainz.

Jews lived in the area enclosed by the north-east section of the medieval city wall with its typical buildings several storeys high from the late 10th century on. The first synagogue that is mentioned in records dates from 1043. Information about the exact circumstances is given in the donor’s inscription set in the stonework near the entrance to the present Late Romanesque men’s synagogue. It says that Jakob ben David and his wife Rahel used their wealth to build “a house”, the synagogue, and decorate it with ornamental work. This synagogue was built of stone and stood on the site of the present yeshiva (the Rashi House).

A necessary condition for building such a synagogue was the existence of a sizeable community. A yeshiva (Talmudic school) of considerable reputation was attached to this first synagogue, but there is no building on the synagogue site that can be identified as having housed it. The student at this school who later acquired great fame as one of the most important scholars and teachers of western Judaism was Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak from Troyes (France), called Rashi. He studied here around the year 1060. A monument to him, the work of the artist Wolf Spitzer from Speyer, stands in the courtyard of the synagogue. This first synagogue was damaged during the crusade of 1096.

 
Siebenarmiger Leuchter (Foto: R. Uhrig) 
seven-branched Menorah (picture: R. Uhrig)

The men’s synagogue

A new synagogue was built in 1174/75 at the same time as the new Romanesque cathedral was built. Craftsmen from the cathedral workshop were active in the construction of this new synagogue. Thus the ornaments on the portal and on the capitals of the columns inside the synagogue can be compared to those of the cathedral.

The men’s synagogue faces east and has a double nave with two columns in the middle which support the interior vault. The impost of the eastern capital bears an inscription that refers to the year 1174/75. These capitals were among the most finely executed examples of the so-called Worms or Strasbourg capital.

The original capitals were destroyed during the devastation of the Nazi period. The portal, however, is the original one.

Here is a picture gallery of the synagogue

 

The ritual bath: the mikvah

An Early Gothic vaulted room with a middle support was added on the northern side in 1212/13 as a women’s annexe. Today this room serves as a memorial room for the Jews of Worms who were murdered during the Nazi period.  The outer face of the entrance portal (inside the vestibule) shows typical features of the Worms school of architecture.

According to a further Inscription, which has also survived, the ritual bath, the mikvah, was built in 1185/86. The supports here have simple square capitals. The synagogue was frequently damaged and restored, both in the Middle Ages and in modern times, and it was also altered during modernizations. The pogroms in 1349 and 1615 caused severe damage. According to an inscription, the Rashi yeshiva was built in 1623/24 adjoining the men’s synagogue and to the west of it, and the porch to the square in front of the synagogue was also added at this time.

The mikvah is closed at the moment due to restauration. You can see the mikvah in an online animation.

Tuch am Thoraschrein (Foto: R. Uhrig) 
cloth at Thora shrine (picture: R. Uhrig)

Reconstruction in 1961

During the “Pogrom Night” in 1938 the synagogue was burned down, and in the following years the ruins were vandalized. Because of the synagogue’s special importance, both religious and historical, the city of Worms, the State of Rhineland Palatinate and the German Government decided after the war to rebuild it. This rebuilding work was done in 1961, using much of the original building material of the old synagogue and despite the fact that no new Jewish community had established itself in Worms. Part of the original wall can still be seen at the north-west corner of the men’s synagogue up to a height of about 1.5 metres. The present synagogue in Worms with its adjoining buildings has the appearance of a medieval synagogue complex with a strong Late Romanesque element.

The Jewish community in Worms ceased to exist as a result of emigration and the murder of its members during the Nazi period. However, the synagogue is once again used for religious services by its present owner, the Jewish community in Mainz.

 

The most important items to see

  • The Aron Hakodesch (Holy Ark) in the east wall. It houses the Torah scrolls (the Five Books of Moses).
  • The Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) indicates that the Torah scrolls are in place and that a religious service can be held.
  • The bimah (podium) with the lectern for unrolling and reading out the Torah
Magen David (picture: R. Uhrig) 
Magen David (picture: R. Uhrig)

Ceremony in 2011 to celebrate 50 years since the rebuilding of the synagogue

In 2011, the Jewish Community of Mainz-Worms and the City of Worms celebrated the 50 th anniversary of the rebuilding of the synagogue. Numerous members of the community and also representatives of from the fields of politics and public life were present at the celebration.

Stella Schindler-Siegreich, Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Mainz-Worms and Lord Mayor Michael Kissel welcomed as guests of honour the President of the Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, the Consul General of Israel in Munich, Tibor Shalev-Schlosser, and the Prime Minister of Rhineland Palatinate, Kurt Beck.

 

Opening hours of the synagogue and the mikvah

  • April - October: 
    daily 10 am - 12.30 and 1.30 – 5 pm

  • November - March: 
    daily 10 am - 12 and 2 pm – 4 pm

    The Synagogue might be closed on saturday mornings (Shabbat) due to religious service.

free admission!

Adresse:

Jewish Synagogue
Synagogenplatz
(in der Judengasse)
67547 Worms

synagogue in city map

contact:

Jewish Museum in Rashi House
Hintere Judengasse 6
67547 Worms
Telefon: (0 62 41) 8 53 - 47 07
Telefax: (0 62 41) 8 53 - 47 99
E-Mail  : stadtarchiv@worms.de

Jewish Museum in city map