[QODLink]
Europe
Estonia Jews to get first synagogue
Tallinn's first synagogue since Holocaust opens as Estonia debates its wartime past.
Last Modified: 10 May 2007 13:33 GMT
Shmuel Kot is Estonia's first Rabbi since the Holocaust [Reuters]

Estonia is preparing for the opening of its first synagogue since the country's Jewish community was destroyed in the Holocaust.
 
Speaking ahead of the building's official opening ceremony on May 16, Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot, the country's first Rabbi since the early 1940s, said the occasion was the best answer to "fascism, communism and Nazism".
Kot, of the Chabad Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish movement, said: "I am the first rabbi after the Holocaust. The last rabbi was killed by the Nazis."

He was reluctant to speak about Estonia's recent decision to remove a Soviet-era war memorial which riots by mainly Russian-speaking Estonians - a significant minority of 300,000 in the country of 1.3 million.

   

But he said, on Thursday, it had been a sensitive issue for Jews living in Estonia as many were Russian-speaking war veterans.

   

The new synagogue was  built at a cost of about $2 million with money from the US-based Rohr family foundation and Estonian Jews and non-Jews.

 

It will fit 180 people in the main worship area.

 

The Jewish population of Estonia is about 3,000.

 

'Free of Jews'

   

Estonia, with its small population, was the only country in Europe to be declared "free of Jews" by the Nazis.

   

Before the war about 5,000 Jews lived in Estonia, mostly in Tallinn. Many fled to the Soviet Union and those that remained were murdered by Nazi forces, including the last rabbi.

 

The last synagogue, built in 1883, was destroyed in the war during the Soviet bombing of Tallinn.

   

"Just like people need an apartment to live in, they also need an apartment for their soul. My wish is that every single Jewish person in the country will feel this is their home," Kot, 30, said.

   

Until now Estonian Jews have used a makeshift prayer room in a building next to the new synagogue.

   

Kot saw the synagogue as a sign of survival and tolerance and was positive not only for Jews but for the whole of Estonia.

   

"This is the right answer to fascism, communism and Nazism," he said.

 

"The communists tried wanted to kill Jewish life and the Nazis wanted to kill Jewish bodies."

 

Officials from the Estonian and Israeli government will attend the opening of the new building.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.