The Synagogue at Urspringen
The Jewish Community at Urspringen
Urspringen was only one of the formerly numerous Jewish communities of the district Main-Spessart. After 1933 there were Jewish communities only a Adelsberg, Arnstein, Burgsinn,
Gemünden, Heßdorf, Homburg, Karbach, Karlstadt, Laudenbach, Lohr, Marktheidenfeld, Mittelsinn, Rieneck, Thüngen, Urspringen und Wiesenfeld.
Jewish citizens have been documented for Urspringen since the 16th century. Urspringen was governed by various rulers (the families of von Castell, Voite von Rieneck, Kottwitz von Aulenbach, von Dalberg und von Ingelheim.
The Jews lived under their own code of law und under the protection of the village ruler and had - due to their large number - an important influence on the village. In 1655 there were 12 Yewish households with 45 people, in 1740 there were 14 "jews under special protection" (12 under the protection of Castell, two under the protection of Ingelheim). in 1807 there were 148 Jews in 33 families or households, in 1813 166 Jews (17.1 percent of the population) at Urspringen. Over 200 people and thus about 20 percent of the entire population, was the Jewish population at Urspringen between 1820 and approx. 1870, in spite of the large number of Jewish emigrants to the USA (e.G. Heilner, Mosenfelder, Freudenreich). In 1933 the Jewish community had 78 members. After 1935 and especially after the events starting with September 1938 and especially ofter the severe incidents of the Reichspogromnacht ("The Night of Broken Glass"), the number of Jews declined considerably. In April 1942 42 Jewish citizens were deported from Urspringen. Hereby they formed the largest quota from a Jewish community in the Main Spesart region. Four more Jews from Urspringen were arrested at Würzburg and taken to the extermination camps in 1942. The deportation of the Urspringen Jews in 1942 - representative for all Jews from the villages of Lower Franconia - are the topic of the door of the Synagogue, designed by the Darmstadt artist Cornelis F. Hoogenboom.
Like all communities with a larger number of Jewish population, the Jewish community at Urspringen had all necessary cultural institutions: a synagogoue, the so-called Jewish School and the Mikwe, the Jewish ritual bath. The deceased were interred at the Laudenbach cemetry, which is not far away.
A synagogue has been documented since 1702. The synagogue in early classical form replaced in 1803 a smaller timber building of the 17th century in Judengasse or the Judenhof, where most of the Jewish houses were. It is said that stones from the Urspringen castle, which was torn down in 1802, were used to build the synagogue.
The synagogue, restored in 1932, was broken in and profaned in 1938; after this date Jewish praying hours were prohibited. The rituals were continued in hiding until 1945; only after this date all traces disappear.
Apart from the synagogue and the bath house - newly built in Quellenstraße in 1926 - the Jewish community, which was the largest in the old district of Marktheidenfeld, had between 1829 and approx. 1916 an own primary school next to the synagogue. Worth mentioning are the Jewish library and the branch of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kajemet le
The Synagogue at Urspringen
The Synagogue at Urspringen, an orthodox rural synagogue, before 1860 was arranged around the Birna (Almemor), the rostrum with the reading desk in the middle of the room and thus centered on the presence and the reading of the Torah, the Holy Scripture Rolls, which form the center of Jewish life and worship.
The men followed the service and the reading of the Torah from mobile lecterns arranged along the walls. The women prayed, separated from the men, on the women's gallery, which was entered through a separate door.
In 1860 the entrance to the Torah Shrine and the original sitting arrangement was altered to make more space. The room then had a nave-llike orientation towards the Torah Shrine at the south-eastern wall (towards Jerusalem), where the Holy Scriptures were stored. During the service they were read from a lectern, placed on a sand-stone rostrum in the middle of the room. The shrine shows the traces of forcible destruction. Of the wall niche, which was wood-panelled and closed with a door, bearing the Holy Scripture Rolls, only the raw stone structure is preserved. The eternal light and the curtain in front of the shrine are destroyed or lost.
Left from the entrance there used to be a water basin for ritual washing of the hands before the service. The sandstone parapet of the entrance to the Torah Shrine and around the walls had iron mandrels for the candles, which were burnt on the anniversary of a relative's death, on the Day of Atonement (Jom Kippur), in commemoration of the dead as well as on the eight days of dedication or the Lichterfest ("Chanukka")
At the south-western wall there is the wedding stone (Chuppa stone).
(Fotos by Ernst Hanel)
In order to hide ritual objects from unauthorized access by the non-Jewish population they often were stored as geniza in attics of synagogoues and school houses. The Urspringen geniza, which was found before the restoration in 1988 in the attic, gave us important information about the former life of the Urspringen Jews. The Geniza Exhibition in the women's gallery shows selected objects from the live in an orhtodox rural community.
The Synagogue in Urspringen's Judengasse, which was restored in 1989-91, bears witness not only of the significance of the Jewish community there, but - because of the good condition and the central location within the district - it makes sure that the memory of all Jewish communitites in the district and their members, who were deported and killed, is kept alive. Simultaneously, it gives an introduction into Jewish culture.
The Synagogue is open from the first Sunday in May until the last Sunday in September, from 3 to 5 pm.
Groups can arrange for individual tours at Urspringen's administration (Phone: 09396/ 385).
Friends of the Urspringen Synagogue
The Friends of the Urspringen Synagogue, an association which was founded in 1990 with help by the History Clubs of Gemünden, Karlstadt, Lohr and Marktheidenfeld, has taken over the care of the synagogue and the exhibitions. With special exhibitions, lectures and publishings it wants to encourage social dialogue on the Jewish history and culture, which was an important factor in the history of Lower Franconia and the district Main Spessart.
The Friends of the Urspringen Synagogue will be happy to show you around and inform you about Jewish culture in Franconia; naturally, they would also be glad to receive a donation.
Please mind our various events and publications.
1. Chairman: Dr. Leonhard Scherg, Marktheidenfeld
2. Chairman: Martin Wagner, Erlenbach