Iceland: Jewish community celebrates new beginnings

Reykjavik community holds formal Rosh Hashana services with a rabbi and a Torah scroll for first time since end of WWII.

Alex Weisler
The Jerusalem Post

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – Nearly half an hour after Rosh Hashanah services were set to begin, the congregation in this chilly city still was one man short of a minyan. But as the small group of Jewish expats and their Icelandic spouses mingled and waited, no one complained.

After all, what’s 30 minutes to a community that’s been waiting more than 60 years?

The Rosh Hashanah services held in downtown Reykjavik last week — organized by a 23-year-old Chabad rabbi who is six months into a quest to revive the Icelandic Jewish community — were the first formal ones with a rabbi and a Torah scroll held in the city since the end of World War II, according to community members.

Most of Iceland’s Jews — there are about 40 in total — live in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital and a compact, vibrant city of about 120,000. In all, some 315,000 people live in Iceland.

There is no synagogue here, no Jewish community center, no organized structure. Judaism is not even one of Iceland’s state-recognized religions.

Until Rabbi Berel Pewzner decided to reach out to Iceland’s Jews in March, there had been no rabbinic presence in Iceland for years. The last rabbis to come here were those occasionally imported to lead services for Jewish soldiers at the NATO base located about 40 minutes away in Keflavik; the base closed in 2006. Chabad tried an outreach effort here in the 1990s, but it was not successful and was discontinued.

Pewzner, who led two Reykjavik seders in April and is back in the city now for the High Holidays, said the success of the seders compelled him to press on…

The article continues at The Jerusalem Post.

H/T Israel Survival Updates

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