Iceland has recognized Judaism as an official state religion, a first in its history, Chabad.org reported.
The recognition followed a year-long process, during which Iceland’s Rav, local Jews, and an Icelandic attorney outlined the Jewish religion and practices to government officials.
“For Iceland to formally recognize the world’s oldest religion is in itself very significant,” said Rabbi Avi Feldman, who serves as Iceland’s only Rav. He and his wife, Mushky, established Chabad-Lubavitch of Iceland in 2018 in the capital city of Reykjavík.
Icelanders pay a church tax (sóknargjald) which the government uses to support their registered religion at birth, or, in the case of no religion, the University of Iceland. Now, for the first time, Icelandic Jews will have the choice to direct their taxes toward Judaism.
The official government recognition will also allow civil recognition of Jewish marriage, baby-naming, and funerals.
When the Feldmans arrived in Iceland, they were told that there were only about 100 Jews living in the island nation, but they were sure there were actually more – and they were proven right.
“We meet local Jews whom we didn’t know previously every single week,” Rabbi Feldman said, saying that he believes that are about 300 Jews living full-time in Iceland.
Most Jews live in Reykjavík (which houses two-thirds of Iceland’s population of 350,000), but the Feldmans have also had contact with Jews in Akureyri, Iceland’s second-largest city, in the village of West Fjord, and in even smaller fishing villages.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)