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Friday, October 21, 2005

Sukkot in Estonia

A good piece here about the re-emergence of Judaism in Eastern Europe. Despite the doomsayers elsewhere, there is now a fresh growth in Jewish worship and pride in this part of the world. Estonia is a place that's very close to my heart and I'm glad to see stories like this, unfortunately very few people get to here them.

The revival of Estonian Jewish life is gaining momentum, as demonstrated by the Sukkot celebration hosted by the Jewish community of Narva. Jews from the cities of Kohtla-Jarve and Ida-Virumaa also traveled here for this special occasion. Rabbi Shmuel Kot, the Chief Rabbi of Estonia and a Chabad Lubavitch emissary, traveled from Tallinn to lead prayers, bringing with him a tent, kosher wine, the Lulav and calendars for the year 5766. After erecting the tent in the yard of the Jewish Community Center, the local community welcomed their guests with a delicious lunch and traditional dances.

The Sukkot celebration got underway in the yard near the sukka and was led by Maria Tsikunova, the Chairman of the Narva community, and its former Chairman, Doctor Alexander Spivak. The two leaders indicated how pleased they were that the Jewish community now has the opportunity to mark Sukkot in full accordance with Jewish tradition. The crowd heard how, just 65 years ago, Narva was home to a sizeable Jewish community, a Synagogue and a resident rabbi.

"Today, we are reviving our Jewish traditions in Narva and we are creating communities where there never historically was any Jewish community, such as in Kohtla-Jarve," explained Rabbi Kot. "We are recreating Jewish life in Tallinn, where 120 years ago, there were 700 Jews who funded the construction of a 1000-person Synagogue. Just several years later, there were already 2000 Jews residing in Tallinn," added the Chief Rabbi. Today, all of these communities belong to the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS and Baltic Countries.

Registered in 1988 by Samuel Lazikin, who founded the Jewish Community of Estonia, the Narva community has gone through four chairmen, many of whom have emigrated in Israel, USA and Germany. Apart from operating a library, a community hall, and an office, the community runs a Discussion Club and a Social Center. This latter institution, which constitutes the local branch of the Tallinn Social Center, fulfills an important role in the community's activity, especially given that most of the community's 70 members are elderly.

Alexander Dusman, the head of the Jewish community of Ida-Virumaa and Head of the country's National Minorities Roundtable, also greeted the audience on behalf of Jews from Kohtla-Jarve. The Jewish community established in this industrial city, which is located in the north-eastern part of Estonia, now has an estimated 100 members.

Participants in this joyful gathering separated into several groups in order to enter the sukka. They recited a prayer over the wine and, holding a Lulav next to their hearts, drank it faithfully. The enthusiasts engaged in dances under the open sky, after which they returned to the Community Center, where the gala continued in great Jewish spirit.

Comments on "Sukkot in Estonia"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:00 PM) : 

Last month a couple of Washington Post reporters visited Birobidzhan to revisit people and places they had seen ten years earlier. Their blog is well worth a look.


Blogger Dave said ... (8:12 PM) : 

Thanks Anon!


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