Estonia’s Jewish community starts building new synagogue in Tallinn

TALLINN, Estonia – Estonia’s Jewish community broke ground Thursday on a new synagogue in the Baltic state, which will replace the house of worship destroyed by bombing in World War II.

“It will be a synagogue for all Jews living in Estonia,” Cilja Laud, a spokeswoman for Jewish Community of Estonia, told the AP, adding the 200-seat synagogue with a pillar-covered entrance is being built next to the Estonian Jewish Community center and school.

Besides hosting worship services, the synagogue will also prepare and distribute kosher foods.

Tallinn’s last synagogue was built in 1882, but was destroyed in 1944 as Nazis fled the country ahead of the Soviet Red Army.

Before World War II, more than 4,300 Jews lived in the Baltic state, but the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940 led to the abrupt end of the Jewish cultural autonomy and hundreds of Jews were deported.

When the Nazis invaded in 1941, hundreds more Jews were sent to concentration camps. The International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes against Humanity has said that some 10,000 Jews of all origins, deported by the Nazis to Estonia from Germany, Lithuania and Poland among others, were killed there during World War II.

Now, some 3,000 Jews are in Estonia, with most living in the capital, Tallinn, and others in the towns of Kohtla-Jarve, Narva and Tartu.

The cost of the synagogue was not revealed, but Laud said the U.S.-based Rohr Family Foundation was shouldering most of the costs.

“But it’s a major project so we also hope to receive local donations from businesses and other organizations,” she said.

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