The history of Jews in all of Finland effectively began in the first half of the 19th century, when Jewish soldiers serving in the Russian Army were given permission to remain in the country upon their discharge. They had to live in the towns assigned to them and with only select occupations open to them; most Jews supported themselves primarily as dealers in secondhand clothing.
After Finnish independence, the situation improved greatly, and with full rights as citizens Jews soon became involved in scholarship and civil society. By the time of WW II, Jews could be found in the Finnish army fighting alongside their countrymen, and despite strong pressure from the Germans at their doorstep the Finnish government never took away the equal rights of Jews.
Today, there remain around 1,800 in the Finnish Jewish community, about 1,400 of whom live in Helsinki and the surrounding area; and about 200 live in Turku. Between these two cities there is an organized Jewish community with their own Synagogues, both Ashkenazi-Orthodox, built in 1906 and 1912, respectively. The communities are members of the Central Council of Jewish Communities in Finland, a body which itself is a member of both the European Council of Jewish Community Services and of the World Jewish Congress. There is even one Jewish Member of Parliament in Finland, who has been in office since 1979.
On a Milk & Honey tour, you will enjoy visits to several of the main attractions of the city – including the Senate Square, the Olympic Stadium, and the Sibelius monument – plus an optional visit to the gorgeous Rock Church. Helsinki’s active Jewish community is home to several Jewish organizations, such as a Jewish burial association (established in 1864) and a volunteer-run mikveh. You’ll visit the Jewish community center and its synagogue, where the incredible history of the Jews in Finland will be discussed in great detail.