Jewish Life, Riga
While most museums in Riga are closed on Sundays or Monday, this museum is closed on Saturday and Sunday, so this museum on one floor and over three large rooms is also a good choice when other places are shut up.
Given the events of the Second World War and the fact that only 1000 Jewish people were left alive after it in Latvia, missing this museum wouldhave really disappointed me. There is talk of the impact of the Nazi occupation in the Occupation Museum and the Latvian War Museum but the virtual eradication of Jewish people from the country is not really dealt with adequately in these museums, so I wanted to see how this museum, housed in the Jewish Cultural Centre, dealt with being Jewish, in a country that obviously has difficulty in dealing with the things that can't always be blamed on others.
The problem here is that how do you deal with Jewish Latvian history in this context. The Jewish museum documents Jewish life in Latvia through time, with a specific focus on the pre-war period and Latvian Jewish identity. rather than focussing on the horror, which is unavoidable, its dealing of the war period and the Holocaust pays tribute to those ordinary Latvians who tried to save Jewish people from the camps. Little is said of the input of those ordinary Latvians who took part in the killings, but then this is fairly common I found in Rigans museums dealing with this period.
Definitely worth visiting, it costs nothing though a donation is recommended as this museum is funded through donations.
Walking through the quaint Rumbula Forest today one cannot imagine the horror and terror that happened here on the 30th of November and 8th of December 1941. More than 25.000 Jews from the Riga Ghetto, women, children and men were brought to the forest and shot and discarded in mass graves. Two people survived this massacrer. The mass murder continued another time in 1944 when more than 1000 Jews were killed here from other parts of Europe including those who were imprisoned in the concentration camp Kaiserwald close to Riga.
The Peitav Shul escaped destruction by the Nazis because of its architecture. Wedged between two other Old Town buildings, the Nazis decided against burning it down as they did to the rest of Riga's synagogues, due to its close proximity to the neighboring buildings. The synagogue served as a warehouse and horse stall until the end of the war. With this it is the is the sole survivor of Riga's fourteen synagogues.
Built in Jugenstil style at the turn of the end of the 19th century it is being currently renovated to restore its former glory.