18 Sivan 5779 , 21/06/2019

Chief Rabbi David Lau: I Was Amazed to Find Minyanim in Estonia

29/05/2017 4 Sivan 5777

Chief Rabbi David Lau, along with a group of VIPs from Israel, came last week to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the founding of Jewish activities in Estonia. The group was led by philanthropist Alexander Bronstein, who funded the building of the community center ten years ago. Rabbi Lau commented, “I was amazed to find functioning minyanim here.”
Chief Rabbi David Lau: I Was Amazed to Find Minyanim in Estonia It has been 75 years since the Wanza Conference of the Nazi leadership declared Estonia to be Judenrein. This year, the local Jewish community celebrated ten years since the establishment of its Jewish community center and its main synagogue in the city of Tallinn, Estonia.
The event, arranged by the local community in conjunction with the RCE, took place last Thursday. Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau, along with top Estonian government officials, Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, and a long list of dignitaries from the local government and from Israel, participated in the event. The RCE was represented by director Rabbi Menachem Margolin and deputy director Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg. The visitors were greeted by Estonia’s chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot and the heads of the local Jewish community.
While some of Israel’s delegation busied themselves preparing for the upcoming event, Rabbi Lau requested to be taken to visit the local Jewish school. He was surprised by the large number of children who greeted him, along with their teachers. He commented that he’d had no idea how vibrant Jewish life was in Tallinn.
At the request of the heads of the Jewish community, Rabbi Lau spoke to the students, explaining the preparations we need to do for the upcoming Shavuot holiday. He pointed out that the community was celebrating its tenth anniversary on Jerusalem Day. After he fielded several questions from the students, a Minchah service was held with the participation of hundreds of local Jews. The service included the Yom Kippur Katan liturgy, and those local Jews who were experiencing such a prayer service for the first time wept through it.
Afterwards, there was an impressive ceremony that was attended by Estonia’s president, the head of Parliament, the Foreign Minister, and the Interior Minister. It began with an emotional speech by Rabbi Kot, who related how he had arrived to become the local rabbi sixteen years earlier, finding a spiritual wilderness. The Jews were descendants of Cantonists, and they had the status of genuine tinokos shenishbu. Today the Jewish community is flourishing. There are regular minyanim, Torah classes, Jewish education, mikva’os and a branch of Kollel Torah where some fifteen Jews study Torah five days a week.
Chief Rabbi Lau then spoke, expressing his amazement at the development of the Jewish community. “Estonia’s Jews are proof of the Torah’s power to resuscitate a community that was driven to extinction.” He asked the local Jews to continue to follow their beautiful tradition of Judaism, which was never lost, and to ensure that the younger generation will continue in the ways of their fathers.
Representing the Israeli government was the Minister of Social Equality, Mrs. Gila Gamliel. She spoke warmly, saying, “It is quite an emotional experience to see vibrant Jewish life in such an unexpected place.” She pointed out that this event coincided with Jerusalem Day, and she invited the Jews to visit Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem.
The event continued with a sumptuous dinner attended by hundreds of local Jews, headed by Mr. Bronstein, who had personally financed the construction of the synagogue and the ten-year anniversary celebration.
Rabbi Kot thanked all the guests warmly, and he thanked the directors of the RCE for their assistance in making the event a success, one that left an indelible impression on Estonia’s Jews.

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