Daugavpils, Dvinsk, Dinaburg, Latgale… In these territories the Jews always constituted a considerable part of the population. Nowadays there are only about 200 Jews in Latgale, over 150 of them living in Daugavpils. For that reason maintenance and preservation of the Jewish heritage in the region is of current importance. This can be achieved by writing and publishing books, still books written by the Daugavpils historians are mainly in the Russian language. They are not available to everyone, they are not always known in other countries, where people born in Latgale and their descendants live.
The history of Latgale Jews attracts the attention of both Jews and non-Jews, especially from the Latvian population. The history of Latgale and the Jewish history of the region is an integral part of the Latvian history, being the component of the Russian history up to the first decades of the XX century.
The time has come to perpetuate the Jewish heritage of the region; for that reason the museum “Jews in Latgale” has been established. The collection of the museum will be gradually demonstrated in the home page of the museum; it will become available for all the persons interested in the Jewish history, culture and traditions.
The idea of establishing a museum was in the air for a long time. Initially the museum „Jews in Latvia” was established in Riga in the 90-ies of the previous century. The patriarch of local historians Prof. I.Steiman sounded the idea of establishing a similar museum. It was supported by a local Jewish community.
Iosif Rochko, founder and current director of the museum, has been collecting relevant materials for several years keeping them in folders and boxes. In 2007, in the frames of the project supported by the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, the museum was opened. A museum collection reflects history and culture of Jews from Daugavpils and small Latgale towns – Rezekne, Ludza, Kraslava, Preili, Krustpils and Zilupe. Their pre-war history ir depicted in the exposition of the museum. Pictures on the Daugavpils stands show synagogues, rabbis, schools and different organizations. Part of the exposition is dedicated to the Catastrophy of Latgale Jews, after-war and modern history of the Jewish community.
The museum is located on the second floor of the “Kaddish” synagogue; therefore the visitors are familiarized first with the history of the building, with rabbis served in the synagogue, interior of the main hall and other premises of the building, like the refectory where the last rabbi used to live. A special device for matzo baking was placed in the same room. In one of the premises you will find a wall plate devoted to Mark Rothko’s family who sponsored the synagogue reconstruction.
Sefer Torah is a real treasure of the synagogue attracting visitors’ interest and attention. Much relevant information can be learnt from the materials exposed in the museum on the second floor, like map of Latgale, old newspapers, posters, placards, announcements, presents, etc. Some booklets and brochures about Latgale and Daugavpils are free.
Museum “Jews in Latgale” takes part in different actions and events, the European Night of the Museums being the most successful one. The number of visitors is increasing every year: while in 2012 there were 875 persons, in 2014 already 1633 persons attended the museum for the period of 9 months. Honorary visitors of the museum include Prime Minister of Latvia, ministers, members of parliament, Daugavpils city Mayor and deputies, ambassadors from Israel, the USA, diplomats and other official persons. In recent years the museum and the synagogue have been visited by tourists not only from different Latvian cities and towns, but also from Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Germany, the USA, Israel, Australia and the Republic of South Africa.
The excursions are conducted in Latvian, Russian and partly in Yiddish. The English interpreter is available by advance order.
A man is alive while the memory of him is alive. The memory is maintained by the people. If there are no people, the books speak instead. If there are no books, the memory is maintained by museum.
We look forward to meet you in the museum “Jews in Latgale”.