On July 27, 2021, the 15-year application process for UNESCO World Heritage status for the cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz concluded with their inclusion in the World Heritage List. Since then, the Speyer Judenhof, the Worms Synagogue District, and the old Jewish cemeteries in Worms and Mainz officially bear the title of UNESCO World Heritage.
The so-called SchUM Sites are significant witnesses of Jewish life and culture in Europe. In medieval Europe, they constituted the center of Jewish culture and continue to be important meeting places today. SchUM is an acronym derived from the initial letters of the medieval Hebrew names for Speyer (Schpira), Worms (Warmaisa), and Mainz (Magenza). The SchUM Sites provide insight into the centuries-old roots of Ashkenazi Judaism and narrate the brightest and darkest times in Jewish history.
Mainz and Worms, the most populous cities in Rhineland-Palatinate, host an impressive Jewish heritage, including unique and exemplary community centers, monuments, and cemeteries. Immerse yourself in the unique history of the SchUM communities.
In Mainz, Jewish history and Jewish present intersect in a very special way. In the Rhineland-Palatinate state capital, captivating stories spanning 1000 years of Magenza can be experienced, as well as remarkable impressions of more recent times in the "New Synagogue Mainz."
Worms houses a true treasure from the 11th century – the oldest in situ preserved Jewish cemetery in Europe. The "Holy Sand," within sight of Worms Cathedral, survived medieval expulsions and pogroms, as well as the Shoah, although not always unscathed, but without extensive damage or evacuations.
The acronym "SchUM" refers to the three historical Jewish communities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz in medieval Germany. The letters "SchUM" come from the initial letters of the medieval names of these cities, derived from the Hebrew language:
S for Schpira (Speyer)
U for Warmaisa (Worms)
M for Magenza (Mainz) These three cities had a significant Jewish presence and played a crucial role in the Jewish history and culture of the Middle Ages. SchUM represents the outstanding Jewish communities and their cultural, religious, and intellectual significance during that time.
The cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz in Rhineland-Palatinate, designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites since 2021, have a variety of significant Jewish heritage sites within their city areas. In Speyer, the Judenhof with a monumental mikveh, ritual bath, women's school, and old synagogue; in Worms, the medieval community center with synagogue, women's school, mikveh, and former community house, as well as the old Jewish cemetery "Heiliger Sand"; and in Mainz, the old Jewish cemetery "Judensand," have been included in the UNESCO list.
The SchUM cities Speyer, Worms, and Mainz were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2021 as a shared Jewish heritage in Germany, making them the 50th World Heritage site in the country. The decision is based on the historical significance of these cities for the Jewish community in the Middle Ages.
These three cities were centers of Jewish scholarship and culture, playing a prominent role in the history of European Jewry. A flourishing period of the Jewish community occurred in the 10th to 14th centuries, particularly in the cities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. The SchUM communities not only influenced the religious and cultural landscape but also contributed to Jewish law and philosophy.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of the SchUM cities thus represents a unique testament to the historical development and contribution of Jewish communities in Germany. Recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage underscores the importance of these cities to the cultural heritage of humanity.
Not only at the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Jewish history can visitors experience Jewish tradition and culture up close. Many other places in Rheinhessen also invite you to discover the diverse history and ever-changing present of Judaism on your own. Explore the New Synagogue in Mainz, the Jewish cemetery in Flonheim, or the Synagogue Square in Ingelheim, and learn fascinating and valuable information about Jewish history at the City Historical Museum in Mainz.
Our map provides you with an overview of the locations of Jewish history in Rheinhessen.