Latvia Jews started settling in Courland, Latvia, in the late 16th century. By 20th century the Latvian Jews settled in the districts of Riga, Latgale, Kurzeme, Zemgale, Vidzeme. Latvia became independent after the First World War.
In 1935 the percentage of Latvian Jews was 4.79% of the total population. The Latvian Jews constituted the third largest community of independent Latvia after the local Letts ( 75.5% ), and Russians ( 10.59% ).
Of the total Jews in Latvia 48.63% were engaged in trade and commerce followed by 28.74% in industry. Other notable occupations were independent professions and public health personnel.
The Latvian Jews owned approximately eleven thousand enterprises which constituted 24.4% of the total independent commercial enterprises. In these eleven thousand commercial establishments, almost twenty four thousand people were employed.
Statistics reveal that out of almost forty eight thousand industrial set-ups about five thousand were owned by the Latvian Jewish community. Out of 2007 doctors in Latvia in 1937, 1222 were Latvian Jews.
In Latvia the Jewish community was not much different from his other counterparts as far as family life is concerned. Boys and girls were treated in similar fashion. Women were active in social and political spheres. Women also were gainfully employed.
Marriages among the Latvia Jews were registered. Marriage registration could either be done at the municipality or the Jewish agency, Kehillah. In the latter case, registration followed a religious ritual.
Compared to other contemporary sects the Jews were a more committed married couple. Births out side marriage constituted 3.1% of the total births among the Jews, compared to 33.8% of the Poles, 23.3% of the Lithuanians, and 12.7% of the Russians.
The religious observance of the Jews of Latvia were quite strong. The movement of Rebbe from Soviet Russia encouraged the establishment of a strong religious control. However, this control was lost after the Second World War. Most of the Jewish synagogues were confiscated by the state and put to other uses. Rabbinical education totally ceased to exist.