Latvia was home to Jews as early as the middle ages, mainly in Courland and Livonia where fourteenth century tombstones have been discovered. The Russians took over Latvia and assigned the’Pale of Settlement’ area for the Jews. Only those Jews who were thought to be beneficial or had lived in a particular area before the arrival of the Russians were allowed outside the designated area.
The government was not keen on Jewish advancement and limited their business influence. Despite this, Jews still played a big part in the improvement of Latvia.The Jewish community was very devout and had reached 85,000 by the time Latvia was occupied by the Nazis. Unfortunately, 90 per cent of them were killed with the help of the Latvians. The Bierkernieki Forest is the site of the shooting of 46,000 Jews.
A majority of the present community stems from the Jews who moved to Latvia after the war, combined with around 3,000 returning survivors of the Holocaust.
There was a lot of Jewish rebellion in the country prior to the end of communism.
The community hosts a Jewish school and hospital as well as monuments in memory of the Holocaust located in Riga, the capital.
Latvia has a family connection to me. My great-great-grandparents came from there. When I was there I did not find out anything about them because it is going back over 100 years so no one there will remember them. However, I did enjoy leading a service at the Synagogue in Riga. It put a smile on the faces of many of the old Jews to hear a Yiddish-flavored davening.
Jewish Community Organization
Saules Street 47
Fax: (54) 8254 24658
Cietoksna 38 LV5400
Mobile Phone: 25902071
Kungu Street 21 Telephone: (34) 25336
Latvian Society for Jewish Culture
Skolas 6 LV1322
Telephone: (2) 289 580, Fax: (2) 821 494
Embassy of Israel
Elizabetes Street 2a LV1340
Telephone: (2) 732 0980, Fax: (2) 783 0170
Chabad Lubavitch Latvia
141 Lacplesa St., LVI 003
Telephone: (2) 6720 4022, Fax: (2) 6783 0444, Mobile Phone: 371 2951 8700
Shabbat and holiday meals. Kosher Cafe l’Chalrn at Skolas 6 (entrance from Dzirnavu) open
10am – 1.00pm, they have takeout available.
The Jewish Museum of Riga
6 Skolas Street LV1322
I did not visit the museum as it was closed when I was there, though I hear it has information that shows the tragedy of the Holocaust in Latvia
Orthodox: Riga Central Synagogue
6/8 Peitavas Street, Riga 1050
Telephone: (2) 721 4507, Fax: (2) 721 4507
Services Shachrit, Mincha, Marive .