(Sunday 28th November) – The Rabbinical Centre of Europe (REC) delegation completed a successful visit to Estonia where they met with the Estonian President, Prime Minister and the Mayor of Tallinn. The delegation also visited the Jewish community, its synagogue, schools and museum. The RCE is an organization dedicated to meeting the needs of Jewish communities in Europe.
“This was a hugely important and successful visit to Estonia,” said Rabbi Asher Gold, spokesman of the RCE. ”The Estonian government is extremely supportive of the Jewish community, not just through statements, but in action and deeds.”
The Jewish community in Estonia has a very dark history and was the first country to be declared Judenfrei, completely free of Jews, by the Nazis during WWII. Today, there is a renaissance in Estonia where over two thousand Jews live, mostly in and around Tallinn.
In 2000, Rabbi Shmuel Kot was made the first Chief Rabbi of Estonia since the Second World War, and a beautiful ultramodern Synagogue was built in Tallinn in 2007 which was opened by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and current Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Estonia is one of the newest members of the European Union and about to become an official member of the Eurozone during 2011.
“As one of the newest members of the EU, Estonia leads the way and serves as a paradigm for excellent relations between the government and the Jewish community,” Gold said. “On almost every issue, the Jewish community has an open door and a receptive ear of the government, at all levels. Antisemitism is at an almost negligible level and Jewish life is thriving in a place which had no Jews only a few decades ago.”
The purpose of the RCE delegation of prominent European rabbis was to see if there was any assistance they could provide to the Estonian Jewish community. Apart from meeting the Estonian dignitaries, the RCE opened a Bet Midrash (religious study centre) and held a meeting at a local community center which was open to all. Three prominent rabbis from the RCE gave short speeches and fielded an open question and answer session with those present.
The RCE expressed their appreciation for the impressive leadership in the Estonian Jewish community, led by Boris Oks, chairman of the Jewish Centre and the religious community, and Ala Jacobson, president of the Jewish community.
The RCE spoke to the Estonian leaders about the upcoming law to brand kosher products with discriminatory labeling and President Ilves said that the Jewish community can count on the support of Estonia within the European Parliament.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip joined his president in conveying his warm feelings towards the Jewish community and reiterated his country’s apology for the actions of Estonians during the Holocaust. Prime Minister Ansip also spoke of his wish to come and visit Israel with his daughter.
The RCE delegation included Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, Rabbi of the Mill Hill Synagogue in London and Chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue in the UK, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, Chief rabbi of the Interprovincial Chief Rabbinate in Holland and Head of the Rabbinical Committee of Holland, and Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Schmahl, Rabbinical judge at the Antwerp Rabbinical court.