show that Jews had resided in Worms from around 1000, and endowments enabled
construction of the first synagogue as early as 1034. The community experienced
its first golden age during the 11th century, attracting important clerics. But
the crusader pogroms of 1096 inflicted terrible damage.
Together with the neighbouring communities in Speyer and Mainz, Worms was home to a particularly well-respected Jewish congregation (known by the term SchUM in these cities), which since the 12th/13th centuries had acquired special authority in legal and religious issues. The economic power of the Jews, who were especially active as merchants, contributed significantly to this standing. Another factor was the religious freedom they had been afforded by kings and emperors since the Salian dynasty, which included the right to settle their own internal affairs.
But the legal position of the Jews and their abilities to flourish in professional life deteriorated drastically from the 14th century (pogrom of 1349), and they were placed under the supervision of the town council. The community in Worms had roughly 250 members around 1500, when many cities and territories like Electoral Palatinate had already expelled their Jews. But the community in Worms persisted nevertheless.
Soon after 1500, the main area of Jewish settlement in Judengasse – whose structures can be traced to this present day – was gradually sealed off, while the supervision and taxation imposed on the Jews by the municipal authorities were increased continuously from the 16th century onward. The community owned a particularly 'holy' site in the cemetery, which had been in constant use from 1050 at the latest; the fabric of the Romanesque synagogue, constructed in the 12th century at the same time as the cathedral, remained almost unchanged until 1938.
In the early modern age, Worms became an important site for cultivating the writings, traditions and intellectual accomplishments of Jewish life, while the city maintained its strong reputation as a 'holy congregation'.