Latvian Jews Prepare For Purim

Last year's Purim celebration in Riga.
Last year's Purim celebration in Riga. photo: Courtesy of Ariel Nadbornik

For Latvian Jews, Purim is one of the year’s signature events, said Ariel Nadbornik, JDC’s communications officer in the Baltics region. 

“Something that people often forget is how hard people here had to struggle to remain Jewish during the Soviet era,” he said. “Even during Communist times, people would – despite the potential risks involved – gather secretly to celebrate Purim, and Purim is still one of the community's biggest annual celebrations.”

The Jewish community of Latvia will celebrate the holiday with a brand-new shpiel expected to attract 150 to 200 people to a hotel in central Riga.

Purim is also one of Nadbornik’s personal favorite Jewish holidays, he said  the energy of the community is electric.

“I like that people come dressed up and really invest in the holiday,” he said. “To me it shows that people are trying to celebrate the holiday properly. Even community members who are generally not that connected to Judaism come in costume to celebrate Purim.”

JDC is critical to expanding and strengthening Jewish life in Riga and throughout Latvia, working to support the local Jewish community in its long-term goal of becoming self-sufficient while helping the community plan, execute, and improve Jewish renewal programming in the short-term.

JDC also works to provide vital humanitarian and welfare assistance to Latvia’s most vulnerable Jewish children, families, and elderly.

JCC’s premier accomplishment in the Baltics, Nadbornik said, might be the Olameinu summer camp, which draws about 500 children from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for two 11-day sessions each July. JDC also runs three weeklong local winter and spring camps, each drawing between 100 and 150 youth. 

Though things could always be better, Nadbornik said the progress of Jewish Latvia has been astonishing.

“In some ways, the future is already here,” he said. “The Jewish life that is taking place in Latvia today is something we could only dream of even 15 years ago.”

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