[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
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
In Brussels, NGO staff are being trained to fill the shortfall of field workers in West Africa.
Lawsuit by 6-year-old girl, locked up for a year, reignites debate over indefinite detention of 'boat people'.
Indonesian and Malaysian authorities are keeping a close eye on local supporters of the hard-line Middle East group.
Citizens of the tiny African nation say they're increasingly anxious of the fallout after alleged coup.
A humanitarian crisis and a budget crisis converge in the heart of the human smuggling corridor in Texas.
join our mailing list