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Tallinn Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot: The community continues to expand in many areas

Estonia’s successful national restoration is being highlighted by thousands of cultural events during Tallinn’s reign as a 2011 European Capital of Culture. For Tallinn’s small Jewish population, which emerged from behind the Iron Curtain in disarray, the occasion also provides it an opportunity to display its own remarkable revival.

Approximately 3,000 Jews live in Estonia, most of them Russian speaking and many still rediscovering their roots. It is a far cry from the time of perestroika, when many departed for the US, Germany and Israel, and when the only synagogue was a small wooden house donated by a local church.

A new synagogue was opened in 2007 in central Tallinn, adjacent to a Jewish school and other community facilities, with support from American donors and local authorities. Previously Estonia had been the only European country without a permanent functioning synagogue.

Chief Rabbi of Estonia – Rabbi Shmuel Kot, a Jerusalem native, says the resurrection of a community many considered dead should be seen as a high point for world Jewry, but adds that it has also enriched his adopted country.

“In the beginning we were sure that the synagogue would bring blessing to the Jewish community in Estonia, but in the last two or three years I have seen that it’s not only for the Jewish community, but also for the Estonian nation,” he says, citing educational visits by school groups from all over the country.

The revival has been so dramatic that even members of the more-established Helsinki Jewish community, 180 km. to the north across the Gulf of Finland, have used the Tallinn mikve while theirs is being renovated.

“Ten years ago we got service from them, now they get service from us; things have changed,” says Kot, a Chabad emissary who has been in Tallinn since 2000.

The community continues to expand in many areas. The Jewish public school adjoining the synagogue now includes some 270 students across all 12-year levels, while adult education programs and lectures are held in the same facilities. A Maccabi sports club has also been established.

Read all article:
“A blessing for the nation” By NADAV SHEMER

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