Given the derivation of the surname Shalita , part of our family history was probably centered in Speyer, a religious center for both Christians and Jews in the 11th through 13th centuries. A cathedral in Speyer (pictured at left from Janson's History of Art , Prentice Hall, 1967 edition) was begun around 1030, ten years before Rashi's birth, but not completed until well after his death. It is probable that Rashi witnessed its construction. A few miles from Speyer is the town of Karlsruhe, the home of our Heumann branch from at least the mid-1800s until World War II. We have not yet discovered a early connection between the Shalita and Heumann branches, but one is certainly possible.

The prime force behind the Speyer Cathedral was the Bishop of Speyer, apparently a believer in religious freedom. In 1084, he made a land grant to the Jews of Speyer that gave them a significant degree of self-government, including

Significantly, the Jews of Speyer were thus under a religious protectorate from the Bishop, not a political one from the King of France or other nobility of the region. The Bishop's grant of 1084 also indicates hostility from Christian neighbors necessitating that "I placed them outside the town and some way off from the houses of the rest of the citizens, and, lest they should be too easily disturbed by the insolence of the citizens, I surrounded them with a wall."

There was an uneasy peace in Speyer, due, in large part, to the favorable intervention of the Bishop. Meanwhile, at the Council of Clermont, Christian leaders decided, on November 28, 1095, to launch a crusade to capture the Holy Land In August 1096. Some local politicians, however, took matters into their own hands, and by May 1096 mobs roamed the French countryside in the first murderous wave of the Crusades . Jewish settlements in Speyer and nearby towns were hard hit, a grim turning point in the history of European Jewry. The collapse of the Bishop's protection in mid-1096 may have motivated Jewish leaders, including Rashi, to build bridges to civil authorities, namely regional counts and noblemen.