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.

OTS Amiel Bakehila Partner Profile – Laura Ben David

Writer, Photographer, Social Media & Marketing Consultant

Moving to Israel changed my life in a most profound way. In fact, Israel and my aliyah experience continues to influence and inspire me. From the moment I arrived in Israel from Boca Raton, Florida seventeen years ago, I’ve been writing about it and never stopped. From my book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, to hundreds of articles, I’ve used the written word as a vehicle to share the beauty, the complexity, the ingenuity and so much more of this special land I am lucky enough to live in.

As my career transitioned from marketing professional to include a photographer and social media consultant, as a vocal Israel advocate it was a natural progression to public speaker and presenter.

I work as director of marketing for an organization called Shavei Israel that works with lost and hidden Jews around the world who wish to reconnect with their roots. One group we work with is Polish Jews, specifically those whose Jewish parents or grandparents hid their Jewishness after the Holocaust and only now their secrets are being revealed, resulting in thousands around Poland newly discovering their Jewish heritage.

Having gone on the very first OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation to Poland in April 2018, I was thrilled to connect with rabbis and community members in person not just as a delegation member, but as someone who’d been in touch with them – and cared deeply about them – through my work at Shavei Israel. This unique experience, including the relationships cultivated there, has stayed with me until today.

As a writer, I naturally wrote about the experience which enabled me to take what was an incredibly meaningful opportunity for me, and what I felt was extremely positive for the Polish communities we visited, and then expand it to become an inspirational narrative for the wider Jewish public. To me, that is an absolute win.

Miriam Shapira – Psychologist & Resilience Expert

Miriam Shapira – Psychologist & Resilience Expert

Miriam Shapira, MA, is a clinical psychologist and therapist to individuals and families, with a private practice in Karnei Shomron, Israel, where she places special emphasis on situations of trauma and grief.

Miria m is the founder and Director of MAHUT Israel, an international center for coping and resilience to threat and trauma, in a systemic and community level. Communities, like individuals and organizations, live in a dynamic and challenging environment. MAHUT’s talented staff helps strengthen community resilience both in routine and during times of emergency, helping them successfully cope with challenging crises and situations, and even grow out from them. MAHUT utilizies a multidisciplinary approach in all sectors of Israeli society, in order to empower communities, organizations and individuals, thereby strengthening the entire Israeli resilience network.

Miriam is also a founding member and first chairperson of BESOD SIACH, a group aimed at promoting dialogue as a means to resolve conflict between different groups in Israel.

Pnina Radai – Sippur al HaDerech

Pnina Radai -Ethiopian Activist

Pnina Radai immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia during Operation “Moses” in 1984 with her grandparents.
After graduating from high school she served in the IDF for seven years as an officer and completed her services with the rank of captain.

Pnina has a B.A. in Communications and Sociology from Tel Aviv University and an M.A. in
Non-Profit Management and Social Organizations from Hebrew University. She specializes in non-profit organizations, the public sector and group leadership.

Today Pnina works as a Director of Training programs at the Government National School for Leadership and Management which is part of the CSC – Israel civil service.

Pnina has volunteered with various programs that promote the Ethiopian Community over the last twenty years. For the past six years, she has volunteered in a unique program called “Sippur Al HaDerech” which means “a story about the journey”. Sippur al Haderech is a grassroots initiative that connects Israelis of various backgrounds with the story of the Ethiopian Jewish community. They also organize evenings for individuals and small groups where Ethiopian volunteers share their personal stories with audiences across the country.

During the course of the delegation, Pnina will share her story—and that of the Ethiopian community in Israel—with your community.