About the Jewish Community of…Helsinki

With Chaya Votking

Tell us about the Jewish community of Helsinki:

The Jewish Community in Helsinki is a dynamic and diverse community with about 1100 members. You can hear many different languages spoken in the community; Finnish, Swedish, English, Hebrew, Russian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Norwegian, Yiddish and so on. The community centre houses a kindergarten, a school for grades 1 – 9, a library, a mikvah, a banquet/sports hall and holds a variety of both religious and cultural activities for different age groups. We have two rabbis and an activity coordinator working with people teaching, guiding and organizing various programs. Also, different international and local organizations are active and bring variety to the activities.
The synagogue building was built in 1906 and it is one of the few synagogues in Europe that survived the Second World War untouched and in which prayers continued uninterrupted. The roots of the community are in Eastern Europe and we still use a Lithuanian liturgy in our services, which is rare in these times. Today Helsinki is home for Jews from different countries, traditions and levels of religious observance. All the people join in the same prayers despite these differences and that is something unique.
One of the most popular activities in the community has been the monthly Shabbat dinner, which is arranged by volunteers.  It brings the community together and besides a delicious meal free of charge, people can enjoy the spirit of Shabbat and good company. At the same time, the community members from different backgrounds get to know each other and it gives a feeling of belonging.