John Simon Talks on Finnish Jews

Tuesday, October 22nd at 7:30 pm at Temple Ahavat Achim

John Simon took over seven years to research the untold history of Jews in Finland. Newly published in English, “Strangers in a Stranger Land” is a creative combination of history and fiction.

The event is free and open to the public.


Simon will share a brief talk and readings of portions of his book, as well as stand by for questions. His presentation is sponsored by the Temple, the Cape Ann Finns, St. Paul Lutheran Church, and Gloucester Office of Veterans Services.

“How the Jews came to Finland forms a unique chapter of the Diaspora,” Simon concluded. He tracked their original, involuntary resettlement from other parts of Tsarist Russia to one of the coldest, darkest and most isolated parts of Europe.

“They were then caught — along with the rest of the population of Finland — in the cross-fire of great European powers at war in the twentieth century,” Simon said. Simon, an American Jew who married a Finn and lives in Finland, thought that it was up to him to tell the story. In order to dramatize the evolving history text, Simon alternates chronological history with the saga of a fictional family of Finnish Jews, whose lives and experiences reflect those of their tiny community.According to Simon, Finland stands alone historically. “Despite its military alliance with Germany, Finland never turned over any of its Jewish citizens to the Nazis’ concentration or death camps. This is a record unmatched by any other country.” Also, in no other country did an army including Jews who openly proclaimed their religious affiliation fight alongside the Germans (Finland was fighting the Soviet Union to preserve its independence).