JEKABPILS (Ger. Jakobstadt), town in Zemgale (Courland) district, Latvia. The Jews who were present in the town despite a ban against them were expelled in 1739, and allowed to resettle there after the Russian takeover in 1795. A community was organized in 1810, and in the 1830s a yeshivah was founded by R. Joseph Ashkenazi, a disciple of Ḥayyim of *Volozhin. There were 2,567 Jews living in the town in 1835. Jews traded in grain, wood, and flax, owned two match factories, and also were artisans. Seven families (60 persons) from Jekabpils settled in agricultural colonies in Kherson province, southern Russia, in 1840. Simeon Zarḥi, rabbi of Jekabpils from 1832 to 1856, and author of Naḥalat Shimon (1897), settled in Ereẓ Israel. The community declined at the end of the 19th century after many of its members had emigrated to America. It numbered 2,087 (36% of the population) in 1897. Jews were expelled by the Russian army to the interior of the country in July 1915, and Jekabpils suffered severely during World War I; many Jewish houses were destroyed. Only some of the Jews returned after the war, and by 1925 they numbered 806 (14% of the total) persons. In 1935 there were 793 Jews. Between the wars they dominated town trade, owning 106 establishments out of 178 (1935). There existed a Jewish school, and Zionist youth movements were very active. Soviet rule 1940–1941 brought the liquidation of private trade and Jewish public life. On June 29, 1941, the Germans entered Jekabpils and began the persecution and forced labor of the Jews. The Jews were concentrated in synagogues, and in September 1941 they were marched outside town into a forest and murdered beside prepared ditches. About ten families returned by the end of the 1950s; they moved the Holocaust victims to the Jewish cemetery and put up a monument with a Magen David and a Yiddish and Russian inscription. A few years later the authorities erased the Jewish symbol and inscription. Most of the survivors left for the West and Israel. The number of Jews living in Jekabpils in 1970 was estimated at about 30.
L. Orchinski, Di Geshikhte fun di Yidn in Letland (1928), 61; B. Rivkin, in: Lite (1951), 407–16.
[Yehuda Slutsky /
Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.