Map of Baltics A group of young Jewish adults stands arm-in-arm in a busy but narrow city street in Tallinn, Estonia, on a bright summer day. They are all smiling warmly.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania

The Baltic countries were hit hard by the global recession, suffering some of Europe’s highest unemployment rates as GDP dropped by a third in Latvia between 2008 and 2010, and by almost 25% in Estonia and Lithuania. The effect on the emerging middle class was devastating, as many professionals lost their livelihoods and joined the ranks of the “new poor.” Sharp rises in food prices and heating costs devastated people living on fixed incomes and reduced wages alike, increasing need for assistance among the elderly and at–risk families.

While conditions differ in each of these countries — which have different languages and cultures and have been moving in separate directions — the pace at which their economies will improve is not yet clear.

In this historically significant center of Jewish learning and culture, Jewish life has staged a remarkable recovery in recent decades after being nearly extinguished during the Holocaust and Soviet eras. Dynamic Jewish communities have reemerged in Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius, with strong progress toward self–sustainability slowed only by the economic downturn. Covering the needs of dozens of small communities, some with hundreds of years of Jewish history but only a few remaining Jews, is a communal challenge.

Today, in collaboration with the local Jewish communities, JDC:

Find out how JDC’s job training program helped Oleg overcome crisis, find new opportunity, and connect with his local Jewish community.

For an in-depth look at JDC’s work protecting the most vulnerable and developing a new generation of Jewish leaders in Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, check out our city profile PDFs.

Did You Know?

The number of first graders entering Tallinn’s Jewish day school has increased by 20% as a direct result of rising enrollment in Tallinn’s Jewish kindergarten, which operates as a partnership of JDC, the municipality, and the Jewish community to involve young families in Jewish life.