Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. II, Nos. 1-2 / Spring-Summer 1998
Bombs in Riga and Moscow

Bombs Damage Synagogues in Riga and Moscow

At 1:50 AM on the morning of April 1, 1998, a bomb exploded outside the 92-year old synagogue in Riga’s historic Old Town, causing severe damage to the synagogue and surrounding buildings.  Damage is estimated at $60,000.

The bomb, reportedly placed on the front steps of the synagogue building, tore out the 200-lb. oak door, destroyed all the windows and casings of the basement and first and second floors, and left deep gouges in the wall.  Fortunately, no one was hurt during the bombing.

The synagogue’s door and beautiful colored windows were original (1906), and had weathered the Nazi bombings and occupation.  During the war, all of Riga’s synagogues were destroyed with the exception of this one because of its location in the center of the Old Town.  The Old Town buildings were built literally adjacent to each other and destroying the synagogue would have meant destroying the entire block.  The Germans used the synagogue instead as a stall for their horses.

This is the second bomb attack on the synagogue; the first was on May 6, 1995, but caused far less damage.

With an official Jewish population of 14,000 and unofficial figures as high as 20,000, Latvia's Jews are the largest Jewish community in the Baltics.

A few days after the Riga bombing, a monument to Latvian victims of the Holocaust was defaced in the port town of Liepaja, days after a synagogue was bombed in Riga, according to The World Jewish Congress’s Dateline World Jewry (May 1998).  The monument was erected to memorialize the estimated 70,000 Jews murdered in Latvia.

On May 13, 1998, in Moscow, a bomb ripped through the outer wall of the city’s Marina Roscha synagogue, the center of Moscow’s active Lubavitch community.  The explosion caused significant damage to the ground floor sanctuary, destroyed cars parked nearby, and caused minor injuries to two people in an adjacent building.  No one in the synagogue was hurt.  The congregation’s original wood synagogue was burned to the ground in 1993, in what was thought at the time to be an accidental fire.  The new building, dedicated n 1996, suffered an earlier bomb attach a few months after opening.  The synagogue attack is one of many recent violent incidents against non-ethnic Russian residents in Moscow.  The American Jewish Committee formally condemned the attack stating  "AJC considers the attack on Moscow’s Lubavitch synagogue, Marina Roscha, to be a troubling anti-Semitic act and we are deeply concerned by the recent anti-Semitic activity in Russia.  Marina Roscha has been the target of previous violent attacks but this one is the most disturbing  because of the size of the explosives and the professional way the attack was carried out."  For more on the incident see The New York Times, May 15, 1998.

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Updated: 1-7-99