Cablegate: Estonian Rabbi Downplays Reports of Anti-


DE RUEHTL #0594/01 2531415
R 101415Z SEP 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary. During a recent meeting with
Poloffs, Rabbi E. Shmuel Kot said anti-Semitism is not a
serious concern for Estonia's small Jewish Community.
Kot also emphasized his efforts to remain outside of
local politics and outlined the religious, social and
educational opportunities offered by Estonia's new
synagogue. The synagogue, opened in May, replaced one
destroyed in WW II. End Summary.


2. (U) On August 24, Poloffs met with Rabbi E. Shmuel
Kot, Chief Rabbi of Tallinn's new synagogue. Estonia's
previous synagogue was partially destroyed in a 1944 air
raid and subsequently demolished in 1947. Until the new
synagogue's dedication on May 16, Estonia was the only
country in the European Union without a synagogue. In
addition to a 200-seat prayer hall, the building houses
a Mikvah (ritual bath), a kosher restaurant (slated for
opening in October 2007), a museum chronicling the
experiences of Estonian Jews in the 20th Century (to be
opened in the near future), offices and meeting rooms.
The construction of the synagogue was funded in large
part by Alexander Bronstein of Moscow, a native of
Tallinn, and the Rohr Family Foundation of Miami and New
York, a major partner in the building of synagogues and
Jewish Community Centers across the Former Soviet
Union. Other notables on the private donor list include
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Tallinn Mayor Edgar

3. (SBU) Rabbi Kot estimates Estonia's Jewish Community
at approximately 3,000 members, 80% Russian-speaking,
and mainly centered in and around Tallinn. While
services are held in the Orthodox tradition, i.e., men
and women are seated separately, the Rabbi underlined
that his congregation also contains Reform and Liberal
Jews, and that the synagogue does its best to cater to
everyone. The Rabbi made the further point that non-
Jews often come to the synagogue to pray before getting
married, visiting the doctor, etc. The Rabbi noted that
the synagogue also receives many visitors from cruise
ships, particularly Americans.

4. (U) The synagogue complex also houses a school and
community center. The community center offers programs
ranging from dance classes to social clubs. Classes at
the school, which are taught in Russian, are offered to
students between grades five and twelve. According to
the Rabbi, 80% of the children that attend the school
are Jewish, but the rest are non-Jewish ethnic
Russians. The Rabbi explained that non-Jewish students
are welcome at the school, but they must learn Hebrew
and take Jewish studies as part of the curriculum. As a
state-sponsored school, the Rabbi indicated that they
would be participating in Estonia's school language
reform program by teaching Estonian Literature classes
in Estonian.


5. (SBU) Rabbi Kot told us that he is not personally
aware of any recent major acts of anti-Semitism in
Estonia. He explained that, although they are a small
minority of the population, Estonian Jews do not have
many problems, commenting that "ethnic Russians and
Estonians are too busy arguing and accusing each other
to worry about the Jews." He underscored this point
with the fact that during the rock-throwing Bronze
Soldier riots last April, the glass-fronted synagogue
was left completely unscathed. (Note. While the
synagogue is not located near the epicenter of the
rioting, a number of nearby shop windows were broken
during riot-related looting. End Note.)

6. (SBU) The Rabbi emphasized the importance he places
on keeping himself and the synagogue out of politics.
To emphasize this point, he told us that during the
fallout from Justice Minister Rein Lang's birthday party
the Minister came to Rabbi Kot asking for support. The
Rabbi said that while he likes Lang personally and was
not offended by his actions, he declined to get himself
or the synagogue involved by making a public statement
of support. (Note. In early July, Minister Lang came
under fire for hosting a performance of the play
"Adolph" at his birthday party. The play is a monologe
by Adolf Hitler before he commits suicide. Although
Lang defended the incident and emphasized that "Adolph"
is in fact an anti-fascist play, Lang's opponents
accused the Minister of being a fascist and Nazi
sympathizer. End Note.)

7. (SBU) Comment. Rabbi Kot's assessment stands in
stark contrast to the recent flurry of accusations by
Russia that there is a resurgence of Nazism and anti-
Semitism in Estonia. The Rabbi's assessment matches
that given by Cilja Laud -- former president of Estonia's
Jewish Community -- in a conversation with the Acting DCM
on August 21. In addition, Aleksandr Dusman -- leader of
the Jewish Community in eastern Estonia -- echoed both
the Rabbi and Laud in his September 5 conversation with
the Ambassador during a visit to Narva. Post will
continue to monitor further developments on this issue.
End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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