Long-awaited synagogue opens in Tallinn

  • 2007-05-16
  • By Steve Roman

FINALLY, A PLACE OF WORSHIP: Estonia and Israeli leaders opened the doors to a new synagogue for the Baltic state's 3,000-strong Jewish community on May 16.

TALLINN - Israeli Vice-Premier Shimon Peres, the chief rabbi of Israel, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar and a large delegation from various Jewish organizations are expected to be on hand for the May 16 inauguration of Estonia's new 's and only 's synagogue. The opening of the synagogue, a modern structure on Tallinn's Karu Street, marks the most significant development in the history of Estonia's Jewish community in well over a century.

Tallinn's previous synagogue, on Maakri Street, was established in 1885 but was destroyed in the Soviet air raids of March 1944. "It will be a really historical, nice and beautiful event," said Estonia's Rabbi, Shmuel Kot.
According to Rabbi Kot, the ceremony will begin with the bringing of the Torah into the synagogue. Apart from speeches, it will also include the traditional affixing of the mezuzah, a decorated case containing a piece of parchment inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Bible, which is typically placed on the doorway of Jewish homes.
Rabbit Kot believes the new facility, which was built with private donations, will give a huge boost to the nation's 3,000-strong Jewish community.

"The problem is that in Estonia many Jews during the Soviet time forgot the feeling of the Jewish traditions. They were not able to say that they are glad to be Jewish, they did not practice Jewish life," he said.
A Jewish community center has been operating on Karu Street for over 10 years, but its rooms were not ideal for prayer.
"Now [with] the synagogue as a traditional Jewish center, Jewish activity is going ... from strength to strength, and thank God it's getting better and better," said the rabbi.

He said that the synagogue will not only be a synagogue, but that together with the complex of the school and the community center, it will be the main focal point for Jewish activity. The building will also have a museum chronicling the history of Jews in Estonia before World War II.