LUDZA (Rus. Lyutsin), town in Latgale district, Latvia. A Jewish community probably existed in the 16th century and fled before Ivan the Terrible's soldiers in 1577. A substantial community appeared in the end of the 18th century, and in 1802 there were 582 Jews in the town and district. The Jewish population numbered 2,299 in 1847; 2,803 (54% of the total) in 1897; 2,050 (40.6%) in 1920; 1,634 (30.4%) in 1930; and 1,518 (27.4%) in 1935. In the second half of the 19th century Jews lived from trade in lumber, grain, flax, and other farm products. Sixty families went to southern Ukraine to settle there in the Jewish agricultural colonies. About 40% of the town's tailors were Jews. The community suffered greatly during and after World War I. The Jewish population also decreased because many Jews there moved to Riga, the capital of Latvia, and other larger population centers, or emigrated. Most of the Jews in Ludza were occupied as shopkeepers or artisans. Jews owned 191 of the 302 larger trade premises. A big fire in 1938 destroyed 95% of Jewish stores and houses. Most of the children studied in a Hebrew public school.
Ludza was famous for its rabbis and scholars. The best known were those of the Ẓioni family, and later the Don Yaḥya family, related by marriage. David Ẓioni officiated as rabbi from 1806 to 1808; he was succeeded by his son Naphtali (1808–56), who was followed by Aaron Zelig (1856–76), author of the responsa Ẓioni (1875). A prominent member of the Ẓioni family was Itzele Lutẓiner, author of Olat Yiẓḥak (1–2, 1885–97), who served as rabbi in *Rezekne. Eliezer b. Shabbetai Don Yaḥya, author of responsa on the Shulḥan Arukh, Even Shetiyyah (1893), was a disciple and son-in-law of
Ludza was occupied by the Germans on July 3, 1941. A ghetto was founded on July 20, and murders, looting, rape, and forced labor began. On August 17, 1941, about 800 Jews were murdered at Lake Zorba outside of town. The few hundred that remained were killed in small actions, the last in May 1942. About 100 Jews returned after the war, but soon most of them left for Israel.
Yahadut Latvia (1953), 286–300; M. Kaufmann, Die Veruichtung der Juden Lettlands (1947), 286–94.
[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.