views updated


WUERZBURG , city in Bavaria, Germany. The Jewish community of Wuerzburg was founded around 1100. The Jews settled near a swampy area that was, however, in the center of the town. Some lived outside this quarter, and there were Christians living among the Jews. In 1147, at the time of the Second Crusade (see *Crusades), the Crusaders, reinforced by rabble from the surrounding countryside, attacked the community. Three rabbis, a scribe, and three other Jews were publicly martyred. The bishop of the town ordered that the bodies of the martyrs be gathered and buried in his garden; he later sold the site to the community, which converted it into a cemetery. During the 13th century the number of Jews grew considerably, not only as a result of natural increase but also through the addition of newcomers ariving from *Augsburg, *Mainz, *Nuremberg, and *Rothenburg. A Judengasse is noted in 1182, a school in 1170, and a synagogue in 1238. In the 12th and 13th centuries Wuerzburg became an influential and important center of Jewish learning. Foremost among the scholars associated with the city during the period were Joel ha-Levi, son-in-law of *Eliezer b. Nathan (Raban) of Mainz; his son, *Eliezer b. Joel ha-Levi (Rabiah); *Isaac b. Moses ("Or Zaru'a") of Vienna, who taught in the yeshivah at Wuerzburg; and his celebrated students *Meir b. Baruch and Mordecai b. Hillel. Of note also were *Eliezer b. Moses ha-Darshan, Samuel b. Menahem, and Jonathan b. Isaac. This large community was destroyed in the *Rindfleisch persecutions of 1298. About 900 Jews lost their lives, including 100 who had fled from the surrounding area to seek refuge in Wuerzburg.

The community was subsequently renewed, this time principally by Jews from *Cologne, *Strasbourg, *Bingen, and *Ulm, as well as from Franconia, Thuringia, and Swabia. The Jews paid taxes to both the bishop and the king. In practice, the Jews were under the protection of the bishop, who governed them through a series of regulations issued on his own initiative. His protection aroused the objection of the townspeople, but after the Jews had aided in the financial expenditure of fortifying the city, the burghers were more sympathetic. However, during the *Black Death persecutions of 1349, the Jews were accused of poisoning the wells in Wuerzburg; in desperation they set fire to their own houses on April 21, 1349, and perished. Among the martyrs was Moses ha-Darshan, head of the yeshivah. The survivors fled, some to *Erfurt, *Frankfurt, and Mainz, and the bishop took possession of their property.

By 1377 Jews were to be found once more in the city; at the beginning of the 15th century a community had been reconstituted and the cemetery returned to Jewish possession. A new synagogue was built in 1446, but the community remained small in the 15th century. In 1567 the Jews were expelled from the town and settled in nearby Heidingsfeld. Bishop Julius expropriated the cemetery in 1576, and he founded a hospital on its site, which still exists. While a few Jews lived in the city during the following centuries, the community was not renewed until the 19th century. In 1813 there were 14 families in the city, and the rabbi of Heidingsfeld then settled in Wuerzburg. The synagogue was inaugurated in 1841. Isaac Dov (Seligman Baer) *Bamberger acted as rabbi from 1839 to 1878. In 1864 he founded a teachers' seminary from which hundreds of teachers graduated and taught in the Jewish schools of Germany. The yeshivah founded during his lifetime was also renowned. Wuerzburg became the spiritual center for the numerous village communities of Franconia. They prayed according to the minhag of Wuerzburg and addressed their halakhic questions to the rabbis there. In 1884 a Jewish hospital was founded in Wuerzburg. The Jewish population numbered 2,600 (2.84 percent of the total) in 1925, and 2,145 (2.12 percent) in 1933.

With the rise of Nazism, many Jews emigrated from Wuerzburg. On Nov. 9–10, 1938 (Kristallnacht), the synagogue was destroyed. From 1941 to 1945 the 1,500 remaining Jews were deported to concentration camps. After the war, 52 Jews returned to their city. In 1967 there were 150 Jews living in Wuerzburg; they had a community organization and possessed a synagogue and an old-age home.

The synagogue was consecrated in 1970. The Jewish community numbered 179 in 1989 and 1,045 in 2004. The increase is explained by the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. In 2001, construction began on Shalom Europa, a new cultural and community center located next to the synagogue. Slated for completion in 2006, the center was to house offices, classrooms, a club for senior citizens, the Ephraim Gustav Hoenlein Genealogy Project of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation (founded in 2002), and a documentation center of Jewish history and culture in Lower Franconia. The former old-age home, which is part of the complex, was rebuilt by the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and houses the Lauder Chorev Center for educational seminars and youth get-togethers.

In 1987, when a house in Wuerzburg-Pleich was demolished, 1,508 Jewish gravestones and gravestone fragments were discovered, dating from 1138 to 1347. This was the largest such find in the world. The stones will be exhibited in the community center.


Historische Zeitschrift, 17 (1867), 177–81; J. Weissbart, Geschichtliche Mitteilungen uebers Ende der alten, Wiedererstehung und Entwicklung der neuen israelitischen Gemeinde Wuerzburg (1882); L. Loewenstein (ed.), in: Blaetter fuer juedische Geschichte und Literatur, 2 (1901), 59–60; 3 (1902), 105–8; 4 (1903), 38–39, 150–3; H. Bamberger, Geschichte der Rabbiner der Stadt und des Bezirks Wuerzburg (1905); M.L. Bamberger, Ein Blick auf die Geschichte der Juden in Wuerzburg (1905); idem, Beitraege zur Geschichte der Juden in Wuerzburg-Heidensfeld (1905); D. Weger, Die Juden im Hochstift Wuerzburg waehrend des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts (diss., 1920); M. Bohrer, Die Juden im Hochstift Wuerzburg im 16. und am Beginn des 17. Jahrhunderts (diss., 1922); M.A. Szulwas, Die Juden in Wuerzburg waehrend des Mittelalters (1934); idem, in: Shmuel Niger-Bukh (1959), 176–92; idem, in: Between the Rhine and the Bosporus (1964), 15–31; J. May, in: zgjd, 8 (1938), 99; H. Hoffmann, in: Mainfraenkisches Jahrbuch, 5 (1953), 91–114; Germania Judaica, 1 (1963), 475–96; 2 (1968), 928–36; 3 (1987), 1698–1711; Baron, Social2, 9 (1965), 181–4. add. bibliography: H. Schultheis, Juden in der Dioezese Wuerzburg 19331945 (1983); U. Gehring-Muenzel, Vom Schutzjuden zum Staatsbuerger. Die gesellschaftliche Integration der Wuerzburger Juden. 18031871 (Veroeffentlichungen des Stadtarchivs Wu erz burg) (1992); R. Flade, Die Wuerzburger Juden. Ihre Geschichte vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart (19962); I. Koenig, Judenverordnungen im Hochstift Wuerzburg (15.18. Jahrhundert) (1999); C. Daxelmueller and R. Flade, Ruth hat auf einer schwarzen Floete gespielt. Geschichte, Alltag und Kultur der Juden in Wuerzburg (2005). website: www.shalomeuropa.de.

[Zvi Avneri /

Larissa Daemmig (2nd ed.)]