1084 September 13, SPEYER (Germany)
In an effort to convince Jews to settle in his town the local Bishop Rudiger offered them a legal status superior to what would be offered them elsewhere in Germany. It read, in part: "Desiring to make a city out of our village of Speyer, I have admitted the Jews.....I have thought to multiply one thousand times the honor of our city by gathering the Jews within its walls." He provided them with their own protected area and their own cemetery. In return they paid 3 1/2 pounds silver to the Church and agreed to defend the city. Local rulers were entitled to offer legal "privileges" although for the most part it was in the hands of the emperor. Twelve years later Speyer became one of the first cities ravaged by the Crusades.
1085 - 1174 SAMUEL BEN MEIR (The Rashbam) (France)
Grandson of Rashi. He wrote a commentary of the Bible and Talmud, adhering more closely to the literal translation than did Rashi. In certain sections of the Talmud where Rashi's commentary is unavailable, the Rashbam's is substituted.
1085 TOLEDO (Spain)
Surrendered to Alfonso VI of Castile in Northern Spain, becoming part of Christian Spain. This was the first important conquest of Moslem Spain known as the Reconquista. His chief counselor was Joseph ben Ferrusel, also known as Cidellus (Little Cid). As his physician and advisor, Joseph was instrumental in helping protect those refugees fleeing Almoravide persecutions.
1086 BATTLE OF ZULA (Zallaka) (Spain)
It is reported that 40,000 Jews fought together with King Alfonso VI against the Almoravides. The Moslem armies also had a large amount of Jews serving in them - so much so that the battle was arranged not to fall on the Sabbath. Although the numbers may be exaggerated, they reflect the fact that Jews actually took part in most of the Spanish wars and fought valiantly.
1086 - 1145 JUDAH HALEVI (Spain)
Zionist, poet and physician. The author of the Kuzari, a philosophical dialogue between the King of the Khazars and members of the three great monotheistic religions. Among his 800 poems are eighty love poems, three hundred and fifty Diaspora poems and thirty-five songs of Zion. He also practiced medicine in Christian Toledo and used his influence to benefit Jewish refugees.
1088 - 1100 WILLIAM RUFUS (England)
Son of William the Conqueror. He continued his father's friendly policy toward the Jews and allowed converted Jews to return to Judaism, thus incurring the wrath of the Church. He once staged a disputation between Jews and Christians and jokingly remarked: "If the Jews win I will convert." The Christians won, but the Jews were not penalized.
1089 - 1164 (1 Adar 4924) ABRAHAM IBN EZRA (Cordova, Spain)
Poet, mathematician and prolific Biblical commentator. He signaled the end of the classical period in Jewish secular poetry. His commentary on the Pentateuch is based on grammar and philosophical interpretations which strive to give a simple explanation rather then exegesis or homiletic interpretation and is considered the first scientific interpreter of the Bible. An unsuccessful businessman, he wrote of himself: "If I were to take up shroud making, men would stop dying - if I sold candles, the sun would never set."