Tallinn, Estonia’s capital city, shines as a little-known Jewish destination whose time has come. The story of the Jews in Estonia reaches back to the 14th century. Today, Tallinn is an example of a city coming to terms with its past, while advancing confidently towards a tolerant and progressive future. For visitors interested in the city’s remarkable Jewish heritage, there is a wealth of things to do in Tallinn, and our insightful guides are eager to show the way!
Our Tallinn tour leads you through the fascinating history and up to the present day. Experience the Middle Ages in Tallinn’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its web of winding cobblestone streets. A 12th century cartographer called it a “small town like a large castle.” Its medieval defensive wall is still extant, telling of its history as an important Hanseatic or sea-merchants’ city, in which Jewish artisans and traders played a role.
Witness today’s revitalized Jewish Community of Tallinn, whose Beit Bella synagogue, built in 2007, includes a sanctuary, mikveh, and restaurant. Discover Tallinn’s active Jewish Community Center and school, and its well-kept Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials, all of which testify to Tallinn’s Jewish heritage and the transformation that has taken place here.
In 1865, during the reign of Russian Czar Alexander II, the Jews gained official citizen rights that lead to a tremendous growth and cultural autonomy. Many Estonian Jews fought in the country’s war of independence between 1918 and 1820. Estonians staunchly defended the rights of Jews even into the Nazi era, electing Heinrich Gutkin as a Jewish member of parliament in 1937! Nazi occupation then decimated the community, members of which were arrested, forced to flee, or killed. The ensuing post-war Soviet occupation did nothing to help. In 1988, on the eve of Estonia’s independence from the Soviet Union, a Jewish Cultural Society was founded in Tallinn, followed by a Jewish day school as well as several clubs and unions with roots in the pre-war past. Today’s synagogue with its fantastic all-glass front, mirrors the surrounding city buildings – a fitting metaphor for the metamorphosis that has taken place here.
Tallinn is also one of our many port destinations. If you plan to come to your guided tour(s) by cruise ship, we would be more than happy to arrange for your transfer and arrival for an inspiring Tallinn shore excursion!