The History of the Jews in Latvia dates back to the first Jewish colony established in Piltene in 1571. Jews contributed to Latvia's development until the Northern War (1700–1721), which decimated Latvia's population. The Jewish community reestablished itself in the 18th century, mainly through an influx from Prussia, and came to play a principal role in the economic life of Latvia.
Under an independent Latvia, Jews formed political parties and participated as members of parliament. The Jewish community flourished. Jewish parents had the right to send their children to schools using Hebrew as the language of instruction, as part of a significant network of minority schools.
World War II ended the prominence of the Jewish Community. Under Stalin, Jews, who formed only 5% of the population, constituted 12% of the deportees. This paled in comparison to the Holocaust, which killed 90% of Latvia's Jewish population.
Today's Jewish community traces its roots to survivors of the Holocaust, Jews who fled to the USSR to escape the Nazi invasion and later returned, and to Jews newly immigrated to Latvia from the Soviet Union. The Latvian Jewish community today is small but active.
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“The Jews always complained, kvetching about false gods, and erected the
biggest false God, Jehovah, in middle of western civilization.”
—Allen Ginsberg (b. 1926)