Jews of Estonia
- Family Name Directory General Family Names List
- Louis Kahn Prominent Architect
- Eri Klas International Concert Conductor
- Yuri Lotman Renowned semiotician, and cultural historian.
- Moses Wolf Goldberg Famous Chemist
This project will be used to collect information on a small community of Estonian Jews.
There are, in historical archives, records of individual Jews being in Estonia as early as the 14th century. But the permanent Jewish settlement of Estonia did not begin until the 19th century, when they were granted the right to enter the region by a statute of Russian Tsar Alexander II in 1865.
The largest synagogues were built in Tallinn in 1883 and Tartu in 1901. Both of these were eventually destroyed in World War II during the Soviet bombing raids of March 1944.
The creation of the Republic of Estonia in 1918 marked the beginning of a new era in the life of the Jews. From the very first days of her existence as a state, Estonia showed her tolerance towards all the peoples inhabiting her territories. In 1926, Jewish cultural autonomy was declared.
With the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, Jewish cultural autonomy, in addition to the activities of Jewish organizations, was terminated. The teaching of Hebrew and Yiddish, as well as lectures on Judaism and Jewish culture, were banned. All Jewish schools were closed.
During the German occupation (1941–1944), the Nazis murdered approximately 1 000 Jews who had failed to flee Estonia (most went to the Soviet Union). During WW II, Estonia was the only German occupied country where the Nazis were unable to provoke Jewish pogroms — there is not a single known case of Estonians killing a Jew on their own.
In addition to the aforementioned Estonian Jews that were murdered by the Nazis, many Jews were transported to Nazi concentration camps in Estonia from other parts of Europe. On the Yad Vashem avenue of trees in Jerusalem, planted in honour of non-Jews who risked their lives to help Jews during the Holocaust, beside the names of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg there is also the Estonian writer and academic Uku Masing’s name, as well as a tree planted in his honour, for having saved a Jewish student during World War II.
During the second Soviet occupation (1944–1991), many Jews migrated to Estonia to escape the anti-Semitism prevalent in many parts of the USSR. At the end of the Soviet era the situation changed. In March 1988, the Jewish Cultural Society was established in Tallinn.
The building of Tallinn's historic Jewish synagogue consecrated in 1885 was destroyed in World War II. Up to May 2007, Tallinn was the last among European Union's capital cities, in which there was no synagogue building necessary for the genuine Jewish life. With the help of kind donators from Estonia and from elsewhere in the world, now the building which Tallinn has lacked for 63 years stands completed.
There is a long tradition of translating the Jewish literature into the Estonian language. The Jewish literature has been translated from Hebrew and Yiddish language.
Estonia has been officially observing International Holocaust Day since 27 January 2003. The Holocaust is part of the Estonian school curriculum, dealt with in connection with the events of World War II. The subject is taught in grades five and nine, and in detail in the 12th grade modern history course.
Estonia is a member of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research since 2007. Estonian Jewish Museum opened its doors in December 2008. Estonian Jewish Community belongs to the Association of Estonian Nationalities.