Latvian Jews in Latvia

The Jew, Latvian-speaking have only been reported in Latvia
Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Jews have lived in Latvia for centuries. Before World War I, Jews played a major role in the development of the country's industries, commerce, and banking. Discrimination by the government, however, brought ruin to many Jews in the country. The majority were forced into small trade in the suburbs of Riga and in the provincial towns.

Local Latvians began to persecute the Jews immediately after the German invasion of 1940. By the time World War II was over, more than 90% of Latvia's Jewish population had been exterminated in the Holocaust. Today, Latvia's Jewish population consists of the descendants of Jews who came to Latvia after the war from various parts of the Soviet Union.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The family structure of Latvian Jews is monogamous (one wife, one husband), and the line of descent is matrilineal (lineage traced through the female). All marriages in Latvia are official civil ceremonies. A couple who wishes to have a religious ceremony in the synagogue is required to have an official civil ceremony afterward.

In the past, Jews in Latvia were particularly active in various industries such as timber, beer brewing, tobacco, hides, textiles, canned foods, and flour milling. About half of the Jews were engaged in commerce, the great majority in medium or small sized trades. There were no Jews in government positions, but today Latvia may still have one Jewish member of parliament.

Because the majority of Jews in Latvia are from other former Soviet nations, Russian is the primary language spoken. Bread and boiled potatoes are the staples of their diet. They also eat apples, beef, cheese, and cucumbers, when available.

Latvian Jews wear typical European clothing, although the style of the clothing might already be dated. The majority of the Jews in Latvia live in apartments built with bricks and cement. However, the quality of the building materials varies. The Latvian Jew are permitted to own property.

Today, the Latvian Society for Jewish Culture is the leading communal organization in Latvia. There is a Jewish school in Riga with 500 children who are learning Hebrew and Yiddish. The Jewish community also runs a children's theater and choir. A Jewish hospital is also in operation.

What Are Their Beliefs?

During the era of Soviet rule, expression of religion was harshly repressed. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, religious freedom was reestablished.

As a whole, Jews in Latvia today do not observe the religious tenets of their Jewish faith, but there is a movement active in promoting the observances of Judaism. This Chabad movement has established the Lubavitcher sect, a very traditional branch of Hasidic Judaism that stresses outreach to other Jews. This sect follows and observes the teachings of a particular rabbi and his sons after him. They have once again begun to observe Jewish festivals and traditions. For example, they have begun to hold bar mitzvahs for teenage boys. Often, a bar mitzvah marks the first time that a young man and his family have ever entered a synagogue.

What Are Their Needs?

The majority of Latvian Jews today are not able to enjoy full civil rights, having lived in Latvia for only a few decades. There have been a number of incidents of anti-Semitism against the Jews, including acts of violence.

Religious freedom has brought many people of Latvia into the churches. Evangelical denominations are rapidly growing. However, the Latvian Jew have remained largely untouched by the revival of Christianity. Even so, there is a small, but thriving, group of Messianic Jews in Riga.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Jew, Latvian in Latvia.

* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to the Jews of Latvia.
* Ask God to anoint the Gospel as it goes forth via radio in their area.
* Pray that God will give the Messianic Jews of Riga boldness to share the Gospel with their own people.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to save key leaders among Latvian Jews who will boldly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
* Pray for a vigorous Latvian Jew church, to the glory of God's name!

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

Additional Info
Global Prayer Digest: 2007-02-22
Global Prayer Digest: 2018-03-26
People Name General Jew, Latvian-speaking
People Name in Country Jew, Latvian
Natural Name Latvian Jews
Pronunciation jooz
Population this Country 5,200
Population all Countries 5,200
Total Countries 1
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names
People ID 19237
ROP3 Code 115646
Country Latvia
Region Europe, Eastern and Eurasia
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Country Latvia
Region Europe, Eastern and Eurasia
Continent Europe
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked

Primary Language:  Latvian, Standard

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1637-1994)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1685-1937)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1689-2008)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Father's Love Letter
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Latvian, Standard
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
General Four Spiritual Laws
General Got Questions Ministry
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file from FCBH
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Latviešu Jaunā Derība
Text / Printed Matter Bible: Revised Latvian Bible
Text / Printed Matter Cartoon Gospel tract
Text / Printed Matter Jesus Messiah comic book
Text / Printed Matter Online Bible text (Scripture Earth)
Text / Printed Matter Online Bible text (Scripture Earth)
Text / Printed Matter World Missionary Press Booklets
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
85.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
15.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
Other Christian
Roman Catholic
Photo Source Masters View / Howard Erickson 
Map Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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