ORT in Latvia

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ORT’s work in Latvia began in 1906 when it supported and funded the building of the Daugavpils [Dvinsk] Jewish trade school. In the 1920s, ORT-supported vocational schools, training courses, shops, and apprenticeship programmes functioned in the Latvian cities of Daugavpils [Dvinsk], Riga and Lubāna. Jewish farming was practically non-existent in Latvia, although the local ORT tried to promote agricultural training among the younger generation. A few agricultural undertakings consisted of Jewish families engaged in gardening and farming. ORT’s work was essentially limited to providing seed on credit, particularly around the Daugavpils area.

In 1933, classes for German Jewish youths who had emigrated to Liepaja were organised. In an 18-month course of study, training was given in mechanical iron work, including metal welding and motor repairs.

The Jewish situation in Latvia changed radically in 1934, when President Ulmanis abolished the Latvian constitution and created an authoritarian regime emphasising nationalism and economic control. It became necessary to take steps to assure the continuation of Jewish crafts. ORT therefore concentrated on vocational training for both youth and adults. It operated a variety of schools, workshops and courses, teaching over 900 students in total. The schools, located in Riga, Daugavpils (Dvinsk), and Liepaja, taught a variety of subjects, including: cabinet making, mechanical iron work, sewing, cutting, corsetry and millinery.

In June 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Latvia. At the time there were ORT training programmes in Riga, Liepaja, and Daugavpils, most of them geared to the needs of refugees from Poland, teaching both trades and agriculture. ORT’s work continued for a short period up to July 1940.

In January 1941, ORT institutions in Latvia were nationalised by the Soviets and ceased to exist as independent entities.

ORT returned to Latvia in 2002.