Entrance to Riga

Brief History
Jewish Population over the years
Synagogues and Rabbis
University of Latvia Center for Jewish Studies in Riga
Jewish Museum of Riga

Synagogues of Latvia 1918-1940  

Sir Isaiah Berlin

Photos of Old Riga

Riga Picture Gallery
Ancestors Photos  New

Religious Life in the Riga Ghetto - Testimony of Karl Schneider 

Riga in Encylopedia of Jewish Life before and after Holocaust-copyright Yad Vashem.

Maccabi Riga 1918-1933 Text and pictures from Malz Archive  

Maccabi Riga Names in Text translated from Yiddish to English  

Maccabi Riga Text and Pictures from Latvian side of book     

Useful Links

Topographic Maps of Eastern Europe -
History of the Pale of Settlement and links to other very interesting articles

Jewishgen and SIGS

Searchable databases



Brief History

Riga was founded in 1201 by the Teutonic Order. In the 15th and 16th centuries Jews had economic ties with Riga. They were allowed to come to Riga to work for limited periods of time but could not live in the city permanently. In 1638 a hostel was opened for them and in 1725 they received permission to establish a Jewish cemetery. There were about 70 Jews in Riga at this time and they left in 1743 when the Jews of Russia were banished. In 1764 some rich Jewish families were classed as "Protected Jews" and were considered as guardians of the "foreign Jews" who had come to the hostel .In 1765 a Chevra Kadisha was officially founded. In 1785 Jews traded in Riga but had to register in a small town called Sloka.(Schlock) not far from Riga. In 1813 they were granted permission to live in Riga and there were 736 inhabitants comprising Protected Jews,Foreign Jews and Schlock citizens. In 1858 they were allowed to own real estate.The area around Moscow Road was known as "Moscow Vorstadt" and was a main area of Jewish settlement. The Russians evacuated the population of Kurland in 1915 while retreating from the advancing Germans. They started with the Jews in March or April of that year.At the end of the 19thC some Jews moved out and lived in the centre of the City In 1941 they were forced back into the Moscow area which became the Riga Ghetto.There were Jewish intellectuals, professionals, and tradesmen but between the 2 world wars about 10% of  Latvian Jews were paupers.

In 1940-1941 leading Jews were arrested and perished in Stalin's Gulag. The NKVD deported 14,000 inhabitants of Latvia on June 14th 1941 including about 5000 Jews, half from Riga. After the war some survivors returned and some Jews from the USSR settled in Riga. 23,000 Jews were registered in Riga in 1989.. There are at present about 9000 Jews in Riga.

1918-1934: Establishment of the Latvian Republic. Saima Period
15th May 1934 -1940:  Karlis Ulmanis'  presidency
1940-1941:  Soviet occupation
22nd of June 1941 - 13th October 1944: German occupation
1944-1990:  Soviet occupation
1990:  Establishment of the Latvian Republic.

Jewish Population over the years


Kurland "mitnaggedim"spoke German and in 1881 half of Riga Jews considered their spoken language to be German. A strong German cultural influence dominated. Little by little others came from Belorussia( White Russia),Lithuania and Poland and spoke Yiddish. At the end of the 19thC Russian was added. During the 1920's and 1930's the youth learned the Latvian language.Hebrew was mastered as Zionism spread. According to the 1925 census,85% of the Jews in Latvia considered Yiddish to be their mother tongue. Yiddish was the language of Primary schools.

Synagogues and Rabbis

"Alt Neue Schul" was opened in1850.
The Great Choral Synagogue "Kar Schul" 25 Gogola Street was consecrated in 1871. In 1941 300 Lithuanian Jewish refugees sheltering in the synagogue,entire Jewish families from the neighbourhood and passers-by in the street were burnt alive in the synagogue. Ruins and a grey memorial stone carved with a Magen David serve as a monument.
In 1873 a Soldiers Synagogue was founded.
By 1915 there were about 40 synagogues.

1873-1893  Rabbi Aharon Pompiansky
Followed by
Rabbi Shlomo Pucher
Rabbi Leib Kantor


Extracts from text by Marger Vestermanis Director of Jewish Museum in Riga. Fragments of the Jewish History of Riga.
Extracts from text held at Kibbutz Shefayim by Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews in Israel.

Useful Links


 JewishGen and SIGs Latvian Genealogy Links 

Searchable databases

 JewishGen Latvia database
The Jewishgen Latvia Database has information from a number of different sources. Data has been drawn from Family Lists for Riga,Courland and other shtetlach in Latvia, Recruits Enlistment registers, Duma Voter's lists, Donations to Schools in Riga, Business and Telephone Directories, Vedomosti (Russian Empire daily newspapers) and many other sources. The latest additions include a database of passport registration names from all over the Russian Empire. Visitors to Riga for any length of time had to register their passports with the police. It is thus a great source of information as relatives visiting Riga can be identified. It is not a passport application database. We have also included the first databases from the 1897 All Russian Census  with census names from Rezekne and Krustpils. The 1897 database will be added to at intervals.

HaMelitz index of Lithuanian and Latvian donors to charitable causes

Yizkor Book Translations 

Poor Jews Temporary Shelter-click on arrow

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Compiled by Arlene Beare
Nov 28,1998

Contact: Arlene Beare
Copyright©1998-2022 Arlene Beare

Updated March 2022

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