Against the odds, the Jewish community in Estonia perseveres, with the establishment of the 700th chapter of Chabad’s Teen Network providing hope and inspiration for the next generation.
Estonia, a small country in northeastern Europe, has become home to the 700th Chapter of CTeen, Chabad’s Teen Network, marking a significant milestone in the growth of the organization. The news was announced at the annual CTeen Jewish pride takeover of Times Square, where 3,000 teens from 30 countries across the globe joined together for a Jewish Pride concert and inspirational event.
For Estonia, the news represents a significant turning point in a long and difficult history for the country’s Jewish community. In January 1942, the Nazis declared Estonia “Juden-Frei,” and the country’s Jewish population was completely decimated. After the war, the country became part of the USSR, which suppressed the Jewish community’s ability to practice their faith.
Today, Estonia has a small Jewish community, and being a proud Jew in the country can be a struggle, particularly for teenagers who may be the only Jews in their schools. However, the establishment of the CTeen Chapter in Estonia offers a new opportunity for Jewish youth to connect with their faith and with the broader Jewish community.
“Having a CTeen chapter is incredibly important for the Jewish youth of Estonia,” said Rabbi Michi Piekarsky, who, together with his wife Rishi, will lead CTeen Estonia. “It will help the teens feel part of the global Jewish community and impart in them the joy and pride of being Jewish, which is something that a teenager growing up in Estonia can sometimes struggle with.”
For Isabel Sarapul, a 9th grader at Tallinn English College in Tallinn, Estonia, becoming the CTeen Leader at the new CTeen Chapter was an opportunity to share her Jewish culture with her schoolmates and represent Estonia at the CTeen Europe Summit in Vienna. The summit brought together Jewish teens from 19 European countries, allowing Isabel to tap into a sense of Jewish pride and community that she had never experienced before.
“Joining CTeen gave me confidence in my Jewish identity and allowed my friends to realize it’s a subject they should feel comfortable asking me about,” said Sarapul. “Now that I have a stronger bond and understanding of my heritage, I can proudly share with them what it’s like to be a Jew.”
The establishment of the CTeen Chapter in Estonia is part of a broader trend of growth for the organization, which has seen 70 new chapters established over the past year alone. “Wherever they may find themselves, every teen must know that they are significant and have the power to make a positive impact on their surroundings,” said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Chairman of CTeen International, “We are proud to welcome the Jewish teens of Estonia to the global CTeen family.”
The opening of the CTeen Chapter in Estonia is a significant milestone for the country’s Jewish community and its youth. It is hoped that it will help these teens connect with their Jewish heritage, feel part of the global Jewish community, and be proud of their Jewish identity.