Jewish Finland:

Home of kosher reindeer and Kabbalat Shabbat at midnight

Thursday, August 1

USA 12:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm ET

UK 8:00 pm / France 09:00 pm / Israel 10:00 pm

The talk will last approximately 90 minutes

About this talk

Finland is often regarded as one of the world's most secularized countries even though the biggest percentage of its population belongs to the historically dominant Lutheran church. The local Jewish minority, numbering approximately 1200 people, is one of the northernmost congregations in the world. It's organized around two Orthodox communities in Helsinki and Turku. The Helsinki synagogue was inaugurated in 1906 and the community center in 1961. The Jewish Community of Helsinki offers many activities and services to its members from birth until old age.

Finland is one of the few countries with an Eastern European (Litvak) Jewish community that was unaffected by the Holocaust. The number of converts and mixed marriages is exceptionally high. Still, the community remains officially Orthodox and maintains a distinct Finnish-Jewish identity. There is hardly any other similarly double-natured, Orthodox-rooted yet progressive Jewish congregation in the world. The rapidly increasing diversity of Finland is also reflected in the Jewish community where the blend of cultures, languages, and religious views is very colorful. The current presentation gives an introduction to various sites of Jewish Finland, such as the synagogues, its cemeteries, and other historical locations with a Jewish connection.

About Mercédesz and Dóra

Dr. Mercédesz Czimbalmos and Dr. Dóra Pataricza are researchers at Åbo Akademi University (Turku/Åbo in Finland), in the project "Boundaries of Jewish Identities in Contemporary Finland - Minhag Finland".

Mercédesz (Merci) holds a PHD in Comparative Religion primarily working on the case study of her doctoral dissertation, entitled "Intermarriage and Conversion". The study focuses on intermarriage and conversion among Finnish Jewry, analyzing changes in religious practice, observance and marriage patterns in a historical light. In addition to her studies, she is a project coordinator and a researcher in the project "Reconstructing the Fate of Hungarian and Bačka-Serbian Victims of the Holocaust". She is an active member of the Jewish Community of Helsinki, a vice-chairperson of JOY, the Jewish Organization of Young Adults in Finland.

Dóra is a post-doctoral researcher in History and Jewish Studies and is currently the vice-PI of a project titled "Antisemitism undermining Democracy at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, led by Mercédesz Czimbalmos. Simultaneously, since January 2020, she has been leading a significant initiative as the project director at the Archives of the Jewish Community of Szeged to reconstruct the experiences of Hungarian and Bačka-Serbian victims of the Holocaust, a project funded by the Claims Conference and IHRA. Dóra is a board member of the Helsinki and Szeged Jewish Communities, vice president of WIZO Finland, and serves on the boards of Limmud Europe.

Both Dóra and Mercédesz are certified tour guides in various languages.

With your contribution, you will also be donating to the Helsinki Jewish Community for the improvement of the security of its premises.