Icelandic herring, now here for kiddush

By Nathalie Rothschild, October 11, 2011

Iceland may have a Jewish First Lady and on the High Holy Days Jews around the world tuck in to herring - one of the country's main exports. But Iceland's Jewish community is near non-existent.

There is no synagogue, no community centre, no Jewish youth clubs. Judaism is not even a state-recognised religion.

Until this year there had been no formal services for the High Holy Days in Iceland since the Second World War. But now, Chabad Rabbi Berel Pewzner is helping to revive Jewish life there. When he arrived in Reykjavik in April to lead two sedarim, he received a warm welcome in the cold country.

Returning for Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Pewzner, together with Rabbi Berel Grunblatt, an Argentinian Jew and cantor, managed to get a minyan together. The Chabad rabbis have used social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to reach out to the community.

Over the years, the 40-odd Icelandic Jews have tried their best to keep traditions alive, getting together for the most important Jewish events. A Tu b'Shvat tree planting event had to be delayed, though – they could only plant the trees in the summer, after the ground had thawed.

Today, there are all kinds of kosher holiday tours in Iceland. But it was the president's marriage to the Israel-born British Jew Dorrit Moussaieff in 2003 that really helped raise awareness of the presence of Jews in the remote Nordic nation.

Last updated: 12:35pm, October 11 2011