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LATVIA - THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

Latvian Jewish website and excellent history of Jewish education and University of Tartu. Holocaust in Latvia. [March 2009]

BOOK:Jewish Cemeteries in Latvia (Ebreju Kapsetas Latbija) by Meyer Meler (Mejers Melers). Published by Shamir, 2006. Hardcover, larger size, 175 pages with abundant photos/ All text is provided in 3 languages: Latvian, Russian and English.Organized by community name with includes photos of cemeteries and a few tombstones as well as historical photos of communities.The text for each community describes the settlement, history, and population and a brief history of the cemetery as well as its exact location.

German Knightly Orders (1201-1561) ruled the country and banned Jews (1306). Kingdom of Poland's Lithuania with a considerable Jewish population from the 13th century was their neighbor. In 1561 Poland took over Livonia and Latgale but left Kurland an independent Duchy. The Jews from the three different provinces, under different governance developed different Jewish histories with today's Latvia divided into four areas. Kurzeme (NW) and Zemgale (SW) were previously named Kurland (Courland) with the towns of Libau and Mitau. Vidzeme along the NE border of Estonia had Riga as the capitol. Livonia (Liflandia in Russian) included Walk, Wenden and Wolmar. Latgale (Latgalia) was Vitebsk guberniya under Russia with the towns of Rezekne and Dvinsk.

  • COURLAND: A semi-independent duchy linked to Poland with a prevailing German influence from 1562-1795. Local Jewry had more affinity to German Jewish tradition than to Lithuanian Jewish patterns. (Zemgale and Kurzeme in Modern Latvia. Kurland in German and Kurlandia in Russian) The oldest Jewish community in Latvia, Courland never was part of the Pale of Settlement, but had two separate political entities.
  • Province of Piltene (Pilten) included Grobin and Hasenpoth and part of Windau district where Jews had arrived around 1571. Piltene district was sold to the Polish king Stefan Batory in 1685, but the Bishop of Pilten had welcomed wealthy Jews (probably merchants from Prussia) to settle for the region's development. Piltene province with all season sea ports such as Libau (now Liepaja) and Windau was vital for trade, even more so than Riga, inoperable in winter. Jews were exempt from taxes until 1717. Decrees of expulsion between 1727 and 1738 went unenforced. In 1708 the first synagogue was permitted in Aizpute (Hasenpoth). In the 18th century favorable laws enabled Jews to become permanent residents of Courland bringing skilled Jewish workers and artisans from Germany and a number of physicians, the core of the Jewish intelligentsia and the later Haskalah. Among these were Marcus Hertz (1743 - 1803). The German way of life dominated Courland, impacting the Jews also. German (and not Yiddish) language was the spoken language of the Jewish community until World War II even though Courland became part of Russia in 1795. In 1799 Jews in Courland obtained legal permanent residence (and double taxation) including the right to vote. 1852 Jewish population: 23,743 in Courland guberniya and 4,189 in Jelgava (Mitau), 22% of the total. The first Jewish school opened in Mitau in 1780. In the 19th century, laws regarding Jews were passed in 1799, 1804, and 1835 when a new Code confirmed Jewish living there permanent residence in Riga and Shlok. Jewish males each paid 500 rubles to avoid Russian army conscription. In 1844 Kehillot were abolished officially. In 1893 Jews moved to Courland and Livonia (Riga) from the Pale with 40%+ involved in artisan/industry occupations and 35% in trade. Libau's port meant that by WWI, Jews owned about 25% of industrial enterprises in Libau.
  • LIVONIA: The Order banned Jews from commerce and farming. Jews as aliens empowered the aristocracy to levy residency restrictions, licensing fees, and other restrictions for hundreds of years through the rule of Poland (1561), Sweden (1621), and Russia (1710). A modern Jewish community existed from 1840. (Latvian Vidzeme, German Livland, Russian Livonia) Vidzeme (Livonia), including Riga is the central part of Latvia. Bordered by the north of the Daugava River and Estonia to the north and the Gulf of Riga to the west, Vidzeme (Riga) along with Courland are the origin of Latvian Jewry with Riga always the focus of Jewish activities. Jews in Riga lived in 1638 but were not allowed to settle in Riga on a permanent basis. In 1710, Riga was conquered by Russia. The articles of capitulation contained all the restrictions regarding Jews due to fear of economic/trade competition mainly from Germans. In 1724, a non-Jewish resident was licensed to run a hostelry for Jews. In 1724, Jews were expelled from the Russian Empire so Riga and Livonia expelled the Jews. In January 1764 three Jews officially were allowed to stay in the "Jew's Shelter". A Chevra Kaddisha formed in 1765. In 1785, Catherine the Great allowed all religions including Jews  to settle near the Baltic Coast in Sloka (Shlok) about 35 km from Riga and in Dobele (Dubeln). Additional shelters developed, growing the Jewish population. In 1841, the Russian Senate allowed Jews already in Riga to live officially. About 1850, about 4,500 Jews in Vidzeme including Riga. Livonia had been outside the Pale, but the Riga Jewish community was one of the most modern in the Empire along with Odessa. In 1832, the community of "Jews of Shlok residing in Riga" applied for a Jewish school in Riga, which resulted in one of the first modern Jewish schools (German language Kaplan School) in 1840 in Riga. The first synagogue was built in 1850. Later, the most outstanding was the Great Synagogue in Gogol street. Riga and Courland communities shared Western-type Jewish characteristics, they were much more "Jewish" than in Germany and Hungary. Modest acculturation halted temporarily due emergence of the  independent Latvian State and the decline of both Russian and German influences. Jewish population: 21,963  in Riga in 1893 and 33,600 in 1914.
  • LATGALIA: (Latvian:Latgale; German:Lettgallen; Russian:Latgalia with districts: Ludza (Lucin), Rezekne (Rezhica), and Daugavpils (Dvinsk, Dinaburg) Ruled by Poland in 1562, Russia in 1772 after the First Partition of Poland, part of the Pale of Settlement in 1804, Latgalia's Jewish communities in Latvia's SW were culturally similar to Yiddish-speaking Lithuania-Byelorussia. After the end of the Livonian Order (1561), Poland governed Latgalia (then called Inflantia) until 1772. Jews probably arrived from Poland in early 17th century following 1605-39 pogroms. Many Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox Jews arrived to escape Bogdan Chmelnitsky's Cossack Raids (1648-1653) pogroms and massacres in Ukraine and Byelorussia. These Jews, many peddlars, lived in a self-governing community, a kahal. The 1766 Census listed 2, 996 Jews in the region (not children). In 1772 (First Partition of Poland), Latgalian province and about 5,000 Jews belonged to Russia. In 1784, about 3,700 Jews lived in Latgalia. After 1802, the three Latgalian districts were part of Vitebsk guberniya, part of the Pale of Settlement. After 1804, Jews were allowed to live only in cities and small towns (shtetlach). Unlike Courland and Riga to the west, the economy of Latgalia, far from the Baltic Sea and close to Russia, was poor. Despite poverty, their traditional lifestyle and many children grew the Jewish population until 11, 000 Jews lived in Latgalia in 1847. Obligatory Russian army conscription and cantonist misery due to recruit kidnappers were established under Czar Nicholas I (1825-1856). [March 2009]

With the Republic of Latvia proclaimed on November 18, 1918, Jews finally were granted full civil rights. 1,000 Jews took part in the liberation war in 1918-1921. The monument to dead Jewish soldiers can be found in the Jewish cemetery in Shmerli. In 1919, a special law establishing a Jewish section in the Ministry of Education directed a network of state-paid Yiddish/Hebrew language Jewish schools meaning the majority of Jewish children attended Jewish schools.[January 2009]

BOOK: "Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Latvia and Estonia" by Arlene Beare (published by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain)

BOOK: Part of documentation and preservation of Jewish heritage: Jewish Cemeteries in Latvia by Meyer Meler (ISBN 9984-9-904-5). Based on a documentary survey of almost fifty Jewish cemeteries identified and visited by Mr Meler and associates affiliated with the Museum and Documentation Centre "Jews in Latvia", the survey was sponsored partly by the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad and by the Council of Latvian Jewish Communities, the Commission of the Historians of Latvia, and the Embassy of the United States in Latvia.

[January 2009] Museum and Documentation Centre "Jews in Latvia" (Jewish Museum of Riga):
Skolas Iela 6
Riga
LV-1322
+371 728 3484
+371 728 3484
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Links to general information about Latvia including maps. [January 2009]

JewishGen Latvia SIG:

Map of the Jewish cemeteries in East Latvia [May 2013]

Title Filter     Display # 
# Article Title
1 AIZPUTE: Courland (Kurzeme)
2 AKNISTE: Zemgale
3 APE: Vidzeme
4 AUCE: Courland (Kurzeme)
5 BALVI: Latgalia
6 BAUSKA: Courland (Zemgale )
7 BIKERNIEKI: Daugavpils District
8 BROCENI: Saldus District, Kurzeme
9 CESIS: Vidzeme
10 DAGDA: Krāslava District, Latgale
11 DAUGAVPILS: Latgale
12 DEMENE: Daugavpils district, Lagale
13 DOBELE: Zemgale
14 DUNDAGA: Talsi, Courland (Kurzeme)
15 DVINSK: see DAUGAVPILS
16 EGLAINE: see ILUKSTE
17 EMBUTE: Liepaja District, Courland (Kurzeme)
18 FRAUENBURG: see Saldus
19 FRIEDRICHSTADT: see Jaunjelgava
20 GAIGALAVAS: Rezekne, Latgale
21 GOLDINGEN: see Kuldiga
22 GOSTINI: Vidzeme
23 GRIVA: Daugavpils
24 GROBIN: Liepaja District. Courland (Kurzeme)
25 HASENPOTH: see Aizpute
26 IKSKILE: Courland (Kurzeme)
27 ILUKSTE: Daugavpils district, Selonia
28 JACOBSTADT: see JEKABPILS
29 JAKOBSHTADTI: see JEKABPILS
30 JAUNJELGAVA: Aluksne District, Vidzeme, Selonia
31 JEKABPILS: Selonia, Zemgale
32 JELAGVA: Courland/Semigallia
33 JURMALA: Vidzeme
34 KANDAVA: Tukums , Zemgale, Courland (Kurzeme)
35 KARSAVA: Ludza, Latgale
36 KAUNATA: see Rezekne
37 KOKNESE: Vidzeme / Aizkraukle District, Selonia
38 KONSTANTINOVA: Kraslava, Latgale
39 KRASLAVA: Latgale
40 KRUSTPILS (KREUTZBURG): see Jekabpils
41 KUBULI: Balvi, Latgale
42 KULDIGA: Kurzeme
43 KURLAND / Courland
44 KURZEME
45 LAIDZES: Talsi, Kurzeme
46 LATGALE
47 LAUNCE: see Daugavpils
48 LEJASCIEMS: Gulbene, Vidzeme
49 LIBAU: see Liepaja
50 LIEBAU: see Liepaja
51 LIEPAJA: Courland / Kurzeme
52 LIEPNA: Aluksne, Vidzeme
53 LIMBAZHI: Vidzeme
54 LITENE: Gulbene, Vidzeme
55 LIVANI: Preiļi District, Latgale
56 LUDZA: Latgale
57 MAKASHANI (Ivgolova): Rezekne
58 MALTA: see Simala
59 MITAU: see Jelgava
60 NERETA: Zemgale, Selonia
61 PAMPALI: Saldus District, Kurzeme
62 PIEDRUJA: Kraslava, Latgale
63 PILTENE: Ventspils, Kurzeme
64 PLAVINAS: Aizkraukle District, Selonia
65 PREILI: Latgale
66 PRIEKULI: Cesis, Vidzeme
67 PUZE: Ventspils, Piltene, Kurzeme
68 REZEKNE: Latgale
69 RIEBINI: Preili, Latgale
70 RIGA: Vidzeme
71 RUGAJI: Balvia, Latgale
72 RUJIENA: Valmiera, Vidzeme
73 RUZINA: Rezekne District, Latgale
74 SABILE: Talsi, Kurzeme
75 SALASPILS
76 SALDUS: Kurzeme
77 SALNAVA: Ludza, Latgale
78 SASMACHEN: see Valdemarpils
79 SASMAKA: see Valdemarpils
80 SHASMAKEN: see Valdemarpils
81 SHMERLI: see Riga
82 SHUBITZ: see Subate
83 SILMALA: (Malta), Rezekne, Zemgale
84 SKAISTKALNE: Vecumnieku, Zemgale
85 SLOKA: also see Riga
86 SMILTENE:Vidzeme
87 SPRINDUJI: see Liepna
88 STRENCHI: Valka, Vidzeme
89 SUBATE: Selonia, Zemgale
90 SUBBAT: see Subate
91 SUBITZ: see Subate
92 SUKTURI: see Talsi
93 SUMATA: Saldus, Kurzeme
94 TALSI: Kurzeme
95 TALSN: see Talsi
96 TILSEN: see TALSI
97 TUKUMS: Zemgale
98 VAINODE: Liepaja, Kurzeme
99 VALDEMARPILS: Talsi, Kurzeme
100 VALKA: Vidzeme
 
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