General information: First Jewish presence: 1650; peak Jewish population: 319 in 1861 (52.2% of the total population); Jewish population in 1933: 172
Summary: The Jewish community of Rhina was founded in 1682. Until the end of the 19th century, Rhina was the only town in Hesse whose population was predominantly Jewish. Services were conducted in a prayer room until 1782, when the community established a synagogue on Am Platz des Dorfgemeinschaftshauses; the building also accommodated a schoolroom, an apartment for the teacher and, in the basement, a mikveh. After extensive renovations, the synagogue was re-inaugurated on January 10, 1834. We also know that the acquisition of a new Torah scroll was celebrated in 1867. The community, which belonged to the district rabbinate in Fulda, consecrated a cemetery in 1837. In 1862, Rhina’s Talmud Torah school was replaced by a Jewish public school; Emanuel Feuerbach served as teacher during the years 1825 to 1863, as did Siegfried Oppenheim (who also started a Jewish soccer team) from 1919 until 1938. Oppenheim published a book about his hometown, called Mein Heimatbuch, in 1931, soon after which he immigrated to Palestine. Prominent Rhina Jews included Rephoel Greis, the community’s rabbi until 1885, and Jakob Nussbaum (1873-1936), the impressionist artist whose work included paintings of the Land of Israel. In 1931/32, 22 Jewish children studied religion in Rhina. Records from 1933 tell us that the community maintained a Talmud Torah society, a sisterhood, a welfare organization called Matan b’seser and an Agudas Yisrael youth group. The Jewish population began to dwindle soon after the Nazis’ election victories. In 1935, while leaving the synagogue, Jews were assaulted by hammer-wielding Nazi thugs. On Pogrom Night, the synagogue and its contents— including the Torah scrolls—were set on fire. Private property was razed, and Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald; they were released several weeks later. By March 1, 1939, no Jews lived in Rhina. According to records, 76 local Jews emigrated (50 went to the United States). At least 69 former residents of Rhina perished in the Shoah. The Jewish cemetery in Burghaun contains a memorial to Shoah victims from the district of Huehnfeld (175 in total), among them those from Rhina. The movie “Now . . . After All These Years” is based on the autobiography of a former Rhina resident.
Author / Sources: Esther Sarah Evans Sources: AJ, EJL www.rhina.de/
Located in: hesse