The Jewish Residency Problem

The Jewish residency problem had troubled the Russians since their takeover, and finally in 1835 in a policy just for Courland and excluding Latgals and Livonia, Jews including family members who had been registered at the last census, were granted permanent residency. This was only 10 years before Wolf was born, indicating relative security at that time.

Himelhoch's Ancestors Lived in Relative Security as Jews in 1835 in a Russian Policy that Exluded Latgal and Livonia Jews from Restrictions

A Map of the Courland

Some explanation is in order to explain the strange bedfellow relationship between the Jews of Courland and the German barons that motivated the Russians in their dependency on the land owners to make accommodations for the Jews. When the Russians came into power in 1795, most of the Jews lived on the huge estates of the barons, where they were petty artisans, innkeepers, land tenants, and peddlers, enhancing the barons income.

Soon they became the barons agents, purchasing their needed supplies and simultaneously selling their products, often going far into neighboring countries, utilizing river transportation on rafts. In time, when the lumber trade between the forests of Russia and the new sawmills and port facilities of Riga became the key industry, the Jews became sawmill managers, lumber specialists, sorters, and graders. They quite naturally began trading in a wide variety of other products including grain, flax, and brandy. The Dvina River and its tributaries became their highway.

Himelhoch's Ancestors Learned Merchant Skills Trading in Latvia's Seaports

Rendering of Riga Sea Port

More important than this land strategy was sea trading. The two key ports of the Courland, Windau and Libau (now Liepaja) are on the Baltic Sea.They are perfect deep water ports adjacent to Germany with worldwide trading significance. Windau is also a Pilten neighbor of the all-important East Prussian port of Konigsberg the nucleus for east meets west communication. Rail facilities also served the sea merchants who Bishop of Pilten aggressively sought to augment his extensive trade with Germany. The Bishop of Pilten offered rights not available to Jews anywhere else in Latvia. Riga, the capital of Livonia, did not have year-round functioning because its extensive bay froze during the cold weather.This made the Pilten area all the more valuable.

The Russians allowed the Jews near White Russian forests, living within the Pale with their complete Hasidic Jewish life, to participate as key personnel in the exploding lumber industry. This made Riga a great sea port while expanding the Jews' expertise beyond lumber to include byproducts and allowing them to be exporters, importers, and important retailers.

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