OPPENHEIM, town in Germany. Jews are first mentioned there in the tax register of 1241, according to which they were obliged to pay the emperor an annual tax of 15 marks. The Jews of the town, legally the property of the emperor, were placed under the protection of the officers in charge of the local fortress, to whom they paid their taxes. They also paid a house tax to the archbishop of Mainz. *Rudolf of Hapsburg and other kings gave letters of credit to various noblemen which were to be defrayed from the taxes paid by the Jews of Oppenheim; at times, they also leased these taxes. The burden of their taxes appears to have caused several Jews of Oppenheim to join the group that fled from the Rhineland and, under the leadership of *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg, attempted to emigrate to Ereẓ Israel (1285). At the end of July 1349, during the persecutions that followed the *Black Death, most of the Jews of Oppenheim were murdered, while others chose martyrdom (*kiddush ha-Shem) and burned themselves to death in order to escape forced conversion at the hands of the mob. Among the martyrs was the rabbi Joel ha-Kohen.
Some time later the community was reestablished. After 1400 the right of residence was made renewable at the end of every six years, and the amount of taxes to be paid was fixed. In 1422 a plot by two Christians to kill the Jews of the town was frustrated by the municipal council. Certain protection fees and "gifts" that the Jews of Oppenheim were compelled to pay weighed upon them so heavily that despite the additional support of such communities as Worms, Mainz, and Frankfurt, Oppenheim Jewry could not meet their payments and were therefore penalized (1444). In 1456, R. Seligmann Bing (or R. Seligmann Oppenheim) attempted to establish a union of the communities of the Upper Rhine, but because of community
The community suffered during the wars of Louis XIV, and by 1674 only three families remained in the town. By 1722 the number had grown to eight. Many Oppenheim Jews settled in Frankfurt and other south German cities, where they were known as "Oppenheim" or "Oppenheimer," and the name became widespread. The community numbered 20 families in 1807; 257 in 1872; 189 in 1880; and 56 in 1933. Of the 17 Jews who remained during World War II, 16 were deported. In 1970 no Jews lived in Oppenheim. A memorial plaque commemorates the destroyed synagogue and the Oppenheim Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. The municipality organized two meetings of "Oppenheims" and "Oppenheimers" in 2000 and 2003.
FJW, 405; P. Lazarus, in: ZGJD, 5 (1934), 200–4; Germania Judaica, 1 (1963), 255–6; 2 (1968), 629–32; E.L. Rapp and O. Boecher, in: Festschrift 1200 Jahre Oppenheim (1965), 91–105. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Arnsberg, Die juedischen Gemeinden in Hessen. Volume 1: Anfang, Untergang, Neubeginn, vol. 2 (1971), 180–87; Germania Judaica, vol. 3. 1350–1514 (1987), 1068–76; F.-J. Ziwes, Studien zur Geschichte der Juden im mittleren Rheingebiet waehrend des hohen und spaeten Mittelalters (Forschungen zur Geschichte der Juden. Abteilung A, Abhandlungen, vol. 1) (1995).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.