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Alternate name: Reval

The original prayer house located on Magdaleena Street was too small and without a rabbi in Estonia, no development as a real religious centrer could occur. Further, communism discouraged religious affiliation. Estonia's Jewish population has reduced by twenty to forty thousand Jews. see photos of both. A complete history of Tallinn's Jews can be found here with photos. The first reference to a Jew is in documents from the Tallinn Magistrate date from 1333: the city was visited by Johann the Jew, most probably an itinerant doctor or feldsher. In 1830, a Jewish population in Tallinn became continuous with residence by cantonists, Jewish youth in the Tsar's army, who started arriving in 1828. They had a prayer house on Wismari Street in the 1830s and in the 1840s, the synagogue in Maakri Street and a lay rabbi. Unfortunately, registration books have disappeared. The small prayer house of the soldiers' community in Maakri Street was too small to accommodate everyone. thus military authorities granted the request to find a new synagogue and soon opened one free in the the former gunpowder cellar near the barracks (current streets Juhkentali and Liivalaia). 1856 is the official starting date of the formal Jewish community in Tallinn. The Chevra Kaddisha dates from then as does the cemetery with a stone wall on Magasini Street. The soldiers supplieded the funds by selling their daily bread ration and other things eventhough they were merely stationed here during their military service. Jews could only settle here with a special permit which ceased when cantonists completed their service. Welcome were First Guild merchants (highest degree in Tzarist Russia) and the educated like medical personnel and artisans with specific qualifications with their families. The Jewish artisans, tradesmen, and entrepreneurs found the new prayer house of the soldiers too far away from the city and still too small, although larger than the former Maakri Street location. They asked Riga Governor-General Suvorov, to allow them to lease premises for the synagogue in Müürivahe Street. Jewish entrepreneurs involved in construction of the railway Paldiski/Tallinn - Saint-Petersburg agreed. Initial permission was granted for services in the synagogue three times a year: Passover, Shavuot and Rosh ha-Shana, expanded in 1870 to the entire year. Thus began the Jewish artisans and tradesmen synagogue on Müürivahe Street. In 1876, a house in Maakri Street was bought when the government allowed Jews holding a residence permit to purchase land. An extremely educated man named Yeshayohu Levinovitch, who dedicated his entire life to the Jewish Community, spearheaded the endeavor leading to using the site to build a new large synagogu that would suit the size and significance of the Community (around one thousand). In 1882, the cornerstone was laid and consecrated In 1885 as the Choral (or Large) Synagogue. The Tallinn rabbi was Gurevitch. The Neo-Roman building imitated the design of the Vienna Synagogue. 1,523 Jews living in Tallinn in 1918 founded the Jewish grammar school and numerous other groups. In 1926, the Estonian Jews used the right provided by the Republic of Estonia to claim cultural autonomy setting a precedent in the contemporary history of the Jewish people. The Jewish population at the end of the 1930s was about 3,000 when all of Estonia was five thousand. The only communal functioning for the duration of the Soviet period were the Jewish cemetery following the loss of the synagogue building. Religious were forced to temporary premises in 1945, a prayer room on the second floor of a building on Kreutzwaldi Street and then a wooden building at Lasteaia 9, currently Magdaleena. After the end of communism, Judaism revived in Estonia. The new synagogue building was built in 2000. Chief Rabbi of Estonia is Efraim Shmuel Kot. [February 2009]


Magasini Street Cemetery: see Rahumae Cemetery. Located on the marshy terrain, the high water table complicated  burials.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 February 2009 18:28
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