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SHUM , an abbreviation used in Jewish sources for the closely allied Rhine communities of *Speyer, *Worms, and *Mainz, based on the initial letters of the Hebrew names of the cities (מגנצא, וורמש, שפירא). Although there are legendary accounts of Jewish communities in the three cities in Roman times, it is probable that the first organized community of the three was founded in Mainz in the early tenth century. Settled communities followed soon after in Worms and later in Speyer; by the end of the 11th century each was well established. The municipal authorities were well disposed to the Jews, granting them economic rights and a high degree of autonomy. With the exception of a temporary expulsion from Mainz in 1012 and another disturbance there in 1084, Jews and gentiles lived largely at peace with one another. The Jews fulfilled a valuable role as traders and entrepreneurs, and maintained a high standard of living. Jewish cultural and religious life flowered first in Mainz, which soon became a leading Torah center. The existence of many small principalities combined with the absence of a central authority (unlike Babylonian influence on Spain) stimulated the growth of localism and jealous independence among the Rhine communities. R. Gershom b. Judah Me'or ha-Golah actively worked toward standardization and federation; his civil takkanot in particular are considered by L. Finkelstein to be of a constitutional nature. Scholars disagree about the source of some takkanot traditionally ascribed to R. Gershom and raise doubts as to whether he did indeed preside over gatherings of Jewish leaders; nevertheless, he undoubtedly laid the foundation for unified action among the three communities as well as other German communities associated with them.

In the generation that followed, the leadership of the Rhine communities passed to France, most specifically to *Rashi. However, while Rashi's influence was great in the Rhine cities where he had once studied, there is no evidence to support the view that he was the initiator of synodal legislation. During the course of the First Crusade (1096) there was coordinated action among the communities, in cooperation with their coreligionists in France, that sought in vain to avert the catastrophe. All of the Rhine communities suffered terribly at the hands of the crusaders but Mainz and Worms were particularly hard hit. The rebuilding period that followed reestablished both the economic prosperity of the communities and their standing as centers of learning. Effective joint action largely prevented further destruction in Germany during the Second Crusade (1146). In a *synod summoned in *Troyes in 1150 by Jacob b. Meir *Tam in order to consider the effects of the Second Crusade, the Rhine communities were ably represented by *Eliezer b. Nathan of Mainz and *Eliezer b. Samson of Cologne. The large number of participants at the conference attest the degree that the Rhine communities and those of France were prepared to coordinate their efforts, a development hastened, no doubt, by the tragedy and the challenge of the Crusades. Though the one ordinance that has been preserved refers to Jewish appeals to gentile courts and gentile officials (both problems of long standing), it is possible that other ordinances, now lost, were of more far-reaching practical importance. Another synod of a less representative nature was held in Troyes around 1160 without German representation. It is probable that the German communities held similar local conferences although there are few references to them in the sources. However, with the death of Jacob Tam and the deterioration of French Jewry at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, leadership increasingly passed to Germany and particularly to Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. As early as 1196, in the wake of the Third Crusade, a synod was convoked at one of the Shum cities under the presidency of David b. Kalonymus. One of the vexing problems that Jewish law had long struggled with was the question of yibbum and ḥaliẓah (see *Levirate Marriage); the compromise that was reached was known thereafter in Jewish law as "Takkanot Shum in regard to ḥaliẓah." A new generation of creative scholars had arisen, including *Eleazar b. Judah of Worms (d. c. 1230), author of Sefer Roke'aḥ, Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi, and *Simḥah b. Samuel of Speyer. They were to play a critical role in the three synods that followed at the beginning of the 13th century in which the allied Shum cities established their leadership positions within Ashkenazi Jewry; the decisions that were reached were to have a far-reaching effect on Jewish *autonomy during the centuries that followed.

The first of the synods, held some time before 1220, enacted a series of communal regulations known as Takkanot Shum. Among many other stipulations these provided that: Any Jew unjustly compelled to contribute to the treasury of a king or noble shall be aided by the rest of the community; no one shall divorce his wife without the consent of the three communities; books left in trust may not be seized by the community for taxes; and no Jew may accept religious office from gentile authorities. Because of their scope, the enactments had a major effect on the functioning of the Jewish community. A second synod held in Mainz in 1220 reenacted certain provisions and passed over others. Finally a third synod that took place in Speyer in 1223 synthesized the work of the prior two. Some years later another gathering in Speyer in 1250 provided that neither rabbi nor community could pronounce a ḥerem without the consent of the other. The pivotal role played by the Shum cities continued into the 14th century, and in fact a synodal conference was held in Mainz in 1306 to mobilize resources for the expelled French Jews, and another headed some time later by Ḥayyim b. Isaac Or *Zaru'a. However, the deteriorating position of the Jews in the Shum cities, particularly in the wake of the *Black Death persecutions of 1348/49, meant that the three together could no longer undertake the crucial responsibilities for western Jewry they had previously fulfilled. Nevertheless, each of the cities continued to make its unique contribution to Jewish life up to the period of the Holocaust.

See also the individual cities.


E. Carlebach, Die rechtlichen und sozialen Verhaeltnisse der juedischen Gemeinden Speyer, Worms und Mainz… bis zur Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts (1901); L. Rothschild, Die Judengemeinden zu Mainz, Speyer und Worms von 13491438 (1904); F. Rosenthal, in: mgwj, 46 (1902), 239–61; Aronius, Regesten, index; Baron, Community, index; Finkelstein, Middle Ages; Monumenta Judaica, Handbuch (1963), index; E. Roth, in: Festschrift I.E. Lichtigfeld (1964), 179–235; Germ Jud, 1 (1963); 2 (1968), index. add. bibliography: R. Barzen, in: The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages (2004), 233–43.

[Alexander Shapiro and

B. Mordechai Ansbacher]