Jewish Heritage of Turku, Finland

If you visit Finland, in addition to Helsinki Jewish Tour  , and you still have some time, we highly recommend to visit Turku

Synagogue in Turku considered one of the most beautiful in Finland.

Turku has Jewish population about 200, most of them descendants of Cantonists. 

These were Jewish soldiers who were drafted by Russian Tsar to the army, served 25 years and afterwards were permitted to settle outside of Pale of Settlement. In this case, Finland.  The restrictions were lifted after 191 Soviet Revolution and in subsequent years more Jews emigrated during WWI and WWII. 

Here is some background supplied by Turku Jewish Community: 

  • We are a small community with 120 members, most of the families backgrounds are from Russian Czar soldiers (so called Cantonists). -         we are holding tight the orthodox tradition which have brought us here (most of the members are however not too orthodox in their personal way of life), 
  • Civil right was given to Finnish Jewry when Finland became independent 1918 (second last in Europe, Rumania was the last), 
  • Synagogue was build in 1912  (the land was donated by the City of Turku to the community which legally did not exist and to the Jews who officially wasn’t living in Finland),
  • The general revisionist Zionism has been the mainstream, 
  • During the WWII NOV 30th 1939- SEP 19th 1944 the Finnish Jews fought like any other Finns on the front against Soviet Russia, Finland lost around 100 thousand people (out of 3,5 million) among others 23 Jewish soldiers
  • Despite fighting with the Nazi-Germany Finland maintained her democratic institutions (before the war only Czechoslovakia and Finland in Eastern-Europe were democratic countries) and did not give up her Jewish citizens
  • After the WWII (when city of Viipuri was lost to Soviets – Jews there like all the other people left and some of the Viipuri community also moved to Turku) our community was its largest 350 members + kids. Most of the community members who left, after the independent Israel have made an alya to Israel and we are still encouraging our youngsters to do it, last year alone 10 people made alya, many members fight the independent wars of Israel. 
  • Despite the lack of blood in our community we are getting Minyan almost every Shabat Morning service (that means that we have about 10 % out of members in service and more than 20 % out of community men members taking part of services).
  • Today our inner community language is Finnish, 1919-1970’s Swedish and before 1919 Yiddish. 
  • Our sports club Makkabé is becoming 100 years old on 2020 (it  is a mistake made by Finnish official when the club was registered) it is the (to our knowledge) second oldest constantly operated Jewish sport club in Europe Helsinki Maccabi is the oldest.   

Logistics  

Please contact us to organize a stay or day trip in Turku. 

Available with hotel package, sightseeing, transfers or train or self-drive - they way you want it. 

How to get there

Best and less expensive is to self drive, enjoying Finnish countryside. 

Turku is about 2 hour away from Helsinki, by car or by train. 

Train is direct - many departures during the day, and it takes 2 hours. 

On arrival, we will arrange a guide to pick you up at train station and give you a tour of the city together with synagogue visit. 

Also, we can arrange a private driver for transfers. 

Or private day tour from Helsinki, but it will run about 1500 euros for such day. 

You will need appointment to be confirmed at synagogue. Please contact us for that. 

The synagogue representative will give a tour of the synagogue and will give a presentation in English. The fee is 50 euros for a group, prepaid, considered as a donation. 

The best hotel to stay in Turku is Radission Blue Marina. 

If you only need synagogue reservation, we will charge a fee for such service. 

Other sightseeing in Turku with your guide might include city tour with its Cathedral (for those who go inside churches), Turku Castle, few museums, and a visit ride to the beautiful archipelago city Nanatali.