In most cases it is little known about Rabbis because two World wars destroyed many documents, and those preserved in the State Historical Archives were not dismantled.The Jewish historiography of the period highlights the socio-cultural aspect (Zionism, Bund, wars between the Gebraists and Idishists, not the religious sphere).
Rabbi, (Hebrew: “my teacher” or “my master”) in Judaism, a person qualified by academic studies of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud to act as spiritual leader and religious teacher of a Jewish community or congregation. Ordination (certification as a rabbi) can be conferred by any rabbi, but one’s teacher customarily performs this function by issuing a written statement. Ordination carries with it no special religious status. For many generations the education of a rabbi consisted almost exclusively of Talmudic studies, but since the 19th century the necessity and value of a well-rounded, general education has been recognised.
He participates in prayer on an equal footing with ordinary members of the community. His primary duty is be an expert on Torah. The main functions of rabbis are to improve the duties of the judge in conflict situations between Jews, to solve controversial issues of ritual, law, faith in accordance with the Tradition. The rabbi must be independent, obliged to obey only the Tradition and his conscience.His moral qualities must be consistent with his vocation. **
In Latvia, rabbis were given significant rights. The Rabbi usually was a board member of the corresponding synagogue. He was given a place of honor at the east wall. The rabbi ‘s voice was decisive on matters of religion, worship, ritual, kosher food and foods, etc.
Rabbis of major communities were released from service in the army. Without the rabbi ‘s permission, it was not possible to perform a number of rites (circumcision, name giving, funeral, etc.). A number of rabbis of Latvia used mail free of charge.
Communities led pinkas – community chronicles. For example, the Libau Hevra Kadisha society in Libau(Liepaja-now). Was established in 1803 and worked according to the rules recorded in the old pinkas. Pinkas was kept at the Community ‘s chief.
Of all Latvian pinkas, only two have survived to the present day – the Riga one, which is located in the State Archives, and the Jelgava pinkas (Mitava), which is stored in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
Rabbis of Liepaja (Libava, Libau):
- In the early 19th century Avrom Boyar was the rabbi of Liepaja(Boyen near Gazenpot (Aizpute) was the name of his estate).
- From 1833 to 1840 – Moiche-Itzhok Levi was the Rabbi of Liepaja.
- From 1840 to 1844 – Zvi-Girsch Burenstein, then – Mendel Israel.
- From 1856 to 1882 – Josef Herzenberg, born in Piltene, from 1849 to 1856 he was a rabbi in Piltene, then swapped places with Mendel Israelsohn. Rabbi Herzenberg surved in Liepāja for 25 years. He died in about 1882 at the end of the Simhat Torah holiday.
- From 1857 – Mordehai ben Cvi Galevy- Lewinschtein was the Rabbi of Liepāja, but from 1881 until 1890 – Dr. Gilel Klein, born in Berlin. At the same time there was another Rabbi -Abraam Geller, the son of the Gaon R. Geller.
- Jakob Denezohn, born in 1840 was the Rabbi of Liepāja. He was a student of the world-famous Rabbi Joseph ben Ber Soloveichik. In 1896 he published his book “Sheerit Yaakov” (The Offspring of Jacob). He died in deep old age in 1920. He left many manuscripts of responsas on the Torah.
- 1887 to 1905 – Meir Atlas. He served in Liepāja, then Salantai and Kobrin. Died in 1926. One of his brothers-in-law Gaon Elhanan ben Beynesh Waserman was born in Bauska.
- From 1888, Toder Leib was the mohel of the Liepāja Rabbinate.Died on January 28, 1940 in Liepāja.
- From 1890-1904 L.O. Kantor was the Rabbi of Liepāja. Among the Russian Jewry he was known as a writer and journalist. L.O. Kantor was the chief rabbi in Liepāja from 1890 -1904 and in Riga in 1909 – 1915. On his initiative, the newspaper “Di Idiche Shtime” was founded in Riga in 1910.
- Since 1890 Elion Marcus was the mohel of the Liepāja Rabbinate since 1890. He studied at Dr. F.Klein ‘s yeshiva there. Died in Liepāia in July 1941, during the Nazi occupation.
- Since 1900 – Abramovich Mosus was the mohel of the Liepāja Rabbinate. Died in Liepāja in 1942 during the Nazi occupation.
- From 1907 – 1937 Dr. Aron-Ber Nurockwas the Rabbi of Liepāja.
- Since 1913 – Hasdan Schmuel was the mohel of the Liepāja Rabbinate.
- From 1921 the Rabbi of Liepāja was Haim Fishel ben David Schloyme Epstein.
- Rabbi Yegoshua Mordechai Klachkin served in Liepāja since 1924.
- From 1929 – 1935 – Cipuk Leib was the mohel of the Liepāja Rabbinate. He was also the Obercantor in Latvia. Since 1922 Cipuk Leib served in the Zeilen-Schul in Riga, from 1923 – 1929- in Daugavpils; from 1929 to 1935 Leib Cipuk was the cantor of the Liepāja Great Choral synagogue.
- From 1933 Elpern Haim was a cantor in Liepāja.
- From 1935 Druyan Iosel Zalka was a cantor and a mohel in Liepāja and killed there in July 1941.
- Since 1935 – Eidlin Mikhail was a Rabbi in Liepāja where he was killed in July 1941.
- Since 1936 Hosias Issac, born in Liepāja in 1913, was a mohet in the Liepāja Rabbinate. Killed in July 1941.
- Iser Polonsky was a Rabbi in Liepāja from 1937 – 1941.
* In 1936 there were 12 Synagogues and Houses of worship in Liepāja.