Estonia’s Tallinn synagogue celebrated its 10-year anniversary Thursday, an event that marked the revival of Jewish community in a country that was declared “Juden-Frei” 75 years ago. The event was attended by Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid and government officials, Russian ambassador and European Union representatives as well as Israeli ministers, ambassador and Israeli chief Ashkenazi rabbi David Lau.
“Jewish life in Estonia is flourishing, and in part it is thanks to the fact that we have the synagogue – a place for the community to come together,” said chief rabbi of Estonia Shmuel Kot in a phone interview. “Many Jews continue to come around and get involved in community activities.”
Estonia was the first country to purge its Jewish population during WWII. After the war many Jews came back to the country from Russia, but the Soviet regime stifled any community regeneration. After the fall of the regime in 1991 the community began the process of revival but there wasn’t yet a building, nor a rabbi. The FJC sent a rabbi to Estonia in 2000, and the construction of the synagogue was started in 2005.
Tallinn’s Beit Bella Synagogue was inaugurated on Jerusalem Day in 2007 – the first synagogue to open its doors in post-war Estonia. Today it plays a central part in the life of Estonia’s Jewish community – it hosts a school, a kosher restaurant and a Jewish museum. In 2016 the EnerJew youth movement opened a branch in Tallinn, providing a way for the country’s younger generations to connect to the region’s Jewish youth and feel a part of a large and vibrant community.
“We were very touched and honored to see so many friends and guests from near and far, who came to congratulate the community and express their solidarity with it,” Rabbi Kot said.