General information: First Jewish presence: 1576; peak Jewish population: 116 in 1912; Jewish population in 1933: 92
Summary: The first era of Jewish settlement in Rheda began in 1576 and ended with the expulsion of 1689. Jews returned to Rheda in 1711, and by 1735 eight Jewish families lived there. In 1779, in spite of protests, Jewish court agent and supplier Jakob Moises became a member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Rheda’s Jewish cemetery was consecrated in 1772, soon after which, in 1781, the Jewish community was officially founded. In 1802, prior to which services had been conducted in a prayer room (located in a round, wooden building), the community inaugurated a synagogue in a halftimbered building on Steinweg. Although women sat in a designated balcony, the congregation may have been liberal, as records tell us that a harmonium was used during services. Rheda’s Jewish school, built near the synagogue in 1860, served the community until 1924. On Pogrom Night, SA men congregated in the Neuhaus restaurant, after which they vandalized the synagogue and set the building on fire; Jewish men were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. The synagogue site was later sold. By September 1939, all but one local Jew had emigrated from or relocated within Germany. Many Rheda Jews, in fact, were deported from other towns and cities in Germany. At least 42 local Jews perished in the Shoah. A memorial was unveiled in Rheda in 1980; a Hebrew scholar who was former resident of Rheda spoke at the occasion.
Photo: Chazzan Weinberg in the synagogue of Rheda-Weidenbrueck. Courtesy of: City Archive of Rheda-Wiedenbrueck.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans
Sources: EJL, YV