Finland:

Home of kosher reindeer and Kabbalat Shabbat at midnight

About this talk

Finland is often regarded as one of the world's most secularised 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 organised around two Orthodox communities in Helsinki and Turku. The Helsinki synagogue was inaugurated in 1906 and the community centre 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 colourful. 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

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) is a doctoral candidate 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, analysing 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 conducts a case study entitled "Foodways" which aims at researching the multi-ethnic culinary traditions of Jews living in Finland. Starting from January 2020, she has been the project director at the Szeged Jewish Community, funded by the Claims Conference to reconstruct the fate of Hungarian and Bačka-Serbian victims of the Holocaust. Dóra is active in the Helsinki Jewish Community, she has been volunteering as the programme manager of Limmud Helsinki for a couple of years and she is also on the board of WIZO Finland.

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

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