Synagogue and Jewish Bath in the Early 20th century and in 1920s


View of the synagogue in the early 20th century
View of the synagogue in the early 20th century
View of the synagogue in 2016
View of the synagogue in 2016


Synagogue in the 1920s
Synagogue in the 1920s
View of the synagogue in 2016
View of the synagogue in 2016


View of the synagogue
View of the synagogue
View of the former Jewish Synagogue, prayer house and ritual bath house
View of the former Jewish Synagogue, prayer house and ritual bath house

Continuing our way along Brīvības (Freedom) Street, we reach a place where a Jewish synagogue with a house of prayer, the so-called "Jewish Bathhouse" mikveh on the side of Tebra and the Jewish Bridge over Tebra once attracted the attention of pedestrians.

Although it can be read in various reference materials that the first Synagogue in Kurzeme was built in 1708 in Aizpute, the source of this statement has not been indicated anywhere, and we have not been able to find one either.

As a meaning of synagogue - a building or just a room that serves as the center of the religious and social life of the Jewish congregation - can also be a separate room in the apartment, where the Torah - the first five books of the Old Testament have been brought in and has enough space for at least 10 adult men, in this sense, it is possible that the synagogue in Aizpute existed even before 1708, but the Jewish community of Aizpute purchased land in the town center on the bank of the river Tebra for the construction of a synagogue and ritual bath or mikveh only in 1752, fully settled in 1755. The information is missing exactly in which year each of the buildings was built. In the 1797 Town Plan all three are marked. In addition, in an even older plan (judging by the buildings marked in it), the bath building known to us is called a Jewish poor house. Apparently, at that time the building served both the needs of the bath and the house of the poor.

In 1802, the Jewish congregation borrowed 2,000 Florins from the owner of Rudbārži (Rudbahre) and other manors against the mortgage of the Synagogue and the newly built Jewish bath.

On the right side of the white Synagogue building shown on the postcard is the house of prayer Beit Midrasch (Beit Ha Midrash) (Old Hebrew - training house), also called the Small Synagogue, but in the 1826 situation plan drawn by Aizpute District Surveyor Johann Heinrich Kramer, it was called the rabbi's apartment. Apparently, both were under one roof.

The large Synagogue was open on Sabbaths and religious holidays, the small one on other days. It also served as a place to study religious literature, the Talmud, the code of Judaism, which contains the laws and religious norms of Judaism. According to these norms, the mikveh is necessary to comply with the laws of Judaism on family purity. These laws are so important that the Jewish community must build the mikveh earlier than the synagogue.

The bath belonging to the Jewish congregation on the bank of the Tebra under the Synagogue was rebuilt in 1843, when the authorized representatives of the Aizpute Jewish Corps Burial Society (Todtenzunft) J. A. Stillbach and Benjamin Behr borrowed 750 Rubles from the Supreme Court’s lawyer H. von Kramer.

Quite often in Christian documents a Jewish house of worship is called as synagogue, it is sometimes difficult to understand which building a particular document refers to. It is well known that in 1846 there was 1 brick synagogue of the Jewish congregation and 1 wooden house of prayer, 1 brick bath.

In April 1860, three chiefs of the Aizpute Jewish congregation and two Synagogue Governors informed the Town Magistrate that the Synagogue had become small and half-ruined, so it no longer met the needs of the congregation and was in danger of collapsing.

The Town Magistrate informed the Courland Provincial Board about the wish of the Jewish congregation, at the same time explaining that the construction costs according to the project of a private Architect Strauss would be 6,000 Rubles and that there are 87 Jewish buildings in Aizpute.

The start of construction was delayed because the congregation considered that local builders and craftsmen were too expensive, so they asked the Civil Governor to decide whether the Jewish congregation could enter into a contract with craftsmen from other cities, which was allowed in August 1861. The construction of Aizpute Synagogue was taken over by the craftsmen of Jaunjelgava (Friedrichstadt).

In January 1866, the Jewish congregation wrote a request to Tsar Alexander of Russia to allow the construction of a new house of prayer in Aizpute, because the old one was in such poor condition that it could collapse and kill many people any day. As the house of prayer also served as the rabbi's apartment, the congregation was forced to build a separate small house for the rabbi by raising donations.

In January 1867, they ask permission for the construction of a new bath.

In February 1867, the architect of the cities of Courland Province Otto Dietze developed a new bath project and in April also a prayer house project.

The construction of the new bath was completed at the end of 1868, there is no information about the progress of the construction of the house of prayer.

In 1872, a new synagogue building was designed by architect Paul Max Bertschy (1840-1911), and in 1873, a local Jewish merchant, Tambourer, was approved as a contractor, who undertook to auction for 4,100 Rubles.

On July 31, 1874, the Bertschy project was allowed to make amendments by adding a "women's choir" (a separate place for women and children), explaining that this was a necessary property of the synagogue, as well as a basement apartment for the office, which cost an additional 982 Rubles.

However, already in 1885, there was big reconstruction in Synagogue, which cost 6,399.48 Rubles. This suggests that this is a house of prayer.

In 1893, according to estimates made by the Provincial Engineer Zikov, both houses were repaired, as well as the mikveh. This repair cost 1,504.14 Rubles.

As for the bath, in the spring of 1877, the Jewish congregation, unable to maintain the ritual bath due to lack of funds, decided to rent it for one year at a public auction. Itzig Asaroff took possession of the bath, except for the bread oven in it, for a year. The Lease Agreement also specified the prices of services for one wash: for the bride - 1 Ruble., for the poor - 50 kopecks; for a woman undergoing purification (Weihnerin) - 50 kopecks; for others: 1 person - 40 kopecks, 2 persons - 50 kopecks, 3 and more persons - 20 kopecks.

In May 1880, Aizpute Council informed the Governor of Courland that there were no baths in the town. The one that Jewish congregation once built on town’s land, could no longer be used, as only ruins worth of 1,000 Rubles remained. As the numerous military personnel stationed in Aizpute either have to do without a bath or look for it in the surrounding manors, the Council intends to build a bath. However, this intention was not carried out. The "Jewish Bath" was renovated and was both a mikveh and a public bath. In 1924, it included the bath of the Aizpute Jewish congregation and a residential building with four rooms for the bath and one apartment. It belonged to the Jewish congregation until nationalization in 1940.

On August 30, 1940, Ģirts Jansons, the Mayor of Aizpute town, reported that “there is a Russian-type sauna in the town, it belongs to the Aizpute Jewish congregation, it is located in Aizpute, 1/3 Sinagogas Street. During one hour, up to 40 people can wash in the sauna at the same time, or up to 300 people in 8 hours.”

At the end of 1940, the Mayor Ģirts Jansons again reported that in Aizpute there is a bath belonging to the Aizpute Jewish Congregation at 1 Sinagogas Street with a capacity of 100 persons for a period of 1 day. Its turnover in 1939 was 500 Lats, profit 150 Lats. The bath should be nationalized.


Jewish bath at the end of the 1930s
Jewish bath at the end of the 1930s
Former Jewish bath in 2016
Former Jewish bath in 2016

Unfortunately, the photo does not show the entrance to the bath, which was on the roof of the building, and was connected to the footpath by a wooden footbridge entrance.




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