For centuries, Speyer was a center of German Jewish life. It was one of the three “Shum” (which also means garlic) communities–Speyer, Worms, Mainz–that formed the heart of the earliest Ashkenazi settlements in the Rhineland. All founded in the eleventh century, they quickly became cherished places of Jewish learning, and of commercial life. The great commentator Rashi studied here, and so did the Gershom the Light of Exile, who brought about a ban on polygamy to the Jews of Europe.
This week, on the seventieth anniversary of Reichskristallnacht, this upcoming Wednesday November 9 (a weighty date in German history I’ve written about before), the Jewish community in Speyer will celebrate its new synagogue. The German TV station SWR has posted a well-done half-hour program on Jewish life in the Rhineland, in German only, and with a bit of Klezmer.
Speyer is organizing a whole series of events, and you can find a program here.
The new synagogue, a former church, looks like this:
And here you can see the bold new synagogue in Mainz. They are not afraid of stark statements, those German synagogues!