Tallinn(formerly Revel) is the capital of the Baltic state of Estonia. One third of the state’s population lives in this seaport town, where 4 million tourists vacation each year.
Although never a major metropolis like neighboring Riga and Vilnius, Tallinn has maintained a Jewish community for centuries. The first Jewish settlers were the Cantonists, who also opened the first synagogue. By 1883, the 700-family strong Jewish community commenced construction of a luxurious synagogue building in the center of town. In this heyday period for the Jewish community, there were kosher meat stores, mikvahs, a cultural center and a Jewish school.
During the war Estonia was the first state to be declared "Judenfrei," and the synagogue was bombed. After the war, some native Jews returned to Tallinn, joined by many Russian Jews. Attempts were made to organize prayers, but the Soviet regime outlawed any open observance of Judaism. Lacking a rabbi, the Jews gathered for prayers in temporary places, until the Christians provided them with a building which served as a synagogue until 2000.
Following the 1990 revolution, Jews re-established “the Jewish religious community in Estonia,” and opened a cultural center. A Jewish school was opened, sponsored by the government and assisted by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
With the assistance of the JDC, an old building was renovated for use as a synagogue, and in October 2000, following the appointment of Rabbi Shmuel Kot as the chief rabbi of Estonia, the synagogue was opened in a festive ceremony in the presence of the prime minister and Israeli chief rabbi. Renewed activities are now taking place in the Jewish community.
The Jewish Community of Estonia has carried out the construction on the New Synagogue, thanks to funding awarded by Aleksander Bronstein, local and international donors and the Rohr Family Foundation. People who are active in the Jewish community of Tallinn are very happy to have such a wonderful place, every jew may be proud of. The building adjointed to the Jewish school, and community members may mark Jewish holidays and unite around such a Synagogue.
In addition to hosting religious services and Jewish holiday celebrations with its 200-seat main hall, the Synagogue oversees the preparation and distribution of kosher food, as well as hosting a Mikvah, and a Jewish museum. The special elevator is customized for elderly and infirm visitors. "A Synagogue is an integral part of Jewish life. It is good not only for Jews, but for all residents of our multi-ethnic Estonia," affirmed the Chief Rabbi of Estonia, Shmuel Kot.