Tallinn, Estonia Jewish Heritage tour for cruise and land clients

History

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 adjoined 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.

4 hour Day tour of Jewish and general Tallinn

Tallinn shines as a little-known Jewish destination whose time has come. With its four-year-old Beit Bella synagogue, containing a sanctuary, mikveh, and restaurant, its active Jewish Community Center and school, and its well-kept Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials, Tallinn is an example of a city coming to terms with its past while advancing confidently towards a tolerant and progressive future.

A cruise-ship port on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn is both the capital of Estonia and a 2011 European Cultural Capital!   Experience the Middle Ages in Tallinn--its old town with its web of winding cobblestone streets is a World UNESCO Heritage Site. Dating back to the 11th century it is original due to an extant defensive wall telling of its history as an important Hanseatic or sea-merchants’ city. Home to a Jewish community since the 14th century, many were themselves merchants and artisans. Being occupied over the centuries by Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Germany has infused the city with a complicated history but a strong sense of self.

We have put together a tour that highlights the depth and scope of this community's presence in the capital city of Estonia, while at the same time introducing the visitor to some of the more popular sites in the city.

We will pick you up from the port. Walk 200 meters from the pier to the harbor’s gate where you will meet your guide holding sign with your name.

Start drive through the wooded abundance encircling Tallinn’s historic center. We will pass by the Kardiorg Park and see the palace built by the king of Russia Peter the I.

The drive continues to the Song Festival Grounds, the famous Lauluväljak. Avery important part of Tallinn’s cultural life with the capacity to host 250000 spectators, it is also considered one of the symbols of liberty of Estonia. We will pass by the beautifully preserved 16th century ruins of St. Brigit’s convent and see the 1980s Olympic Yachting Center.

On arrival to Tallinn’s Old Town we will notice the 11th century wall and tower gates. The old town with its web of winding cobblestone streets is a World UNESCO Heritage Site. 

We will step out of car at the Toompea Hill in the upper town to start a leisurely walk through what seem to be taken out of 17th century Moscow with the dominant Russian Orthodox Church and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. We will go inside the oldest church in Mainland Estonia, the 13th century Dome Church to see more than 100 medieval coats of arms are on display. Descending down to the Lower town we will feel surrounded by the spires rising well above the cluster of red-tiles rooftops. We will reach the The Town Hall Square which is considered as the best preserved in Northern Europe with its famous 1404 Town Hall. 

We will walk down Viru & Kullaseppa streets, where many Jews have lived at the beginning of the 20th century. Being occupied over the centuries by Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Germany has infused the city with a complicated history but a strong sense of self. A short drive out of the old town we will visit the current Jewish Community Centre, the Jewish School and the new 2007’s synagogue. It was a long time coming. During World War II, the Jewish community that had existed in Tallinn was all but wiped out, and its synagogue bombed. 

We will pay tribute to over 600 Estonian and French Jews who were murdered at the Suur Patarei Street prison and visit the Old synagogue that was destroyed in 1944. In the years following the war, a few native Jews returned to Tallinn, joined by many more Russian Jews, but the Soviet regime had outlawed any open observance of Judaism. It was only after Estonia regained independence in 1991 that a real Jewish religious community was re-established here. With the opening of the synagogue, the Jewish community was given a new focus; The Mikvah opened in 2007 and the Jewish Museum in January 2011. It is our pleasure to show you this blossoming community!

Itinerary is customized for each client.