President-elect of Lativa Egils Levits, 63, has Jewish roots. His father Jonass was Jewish but his mother was not, he said in an interview last month for the Delfi news channel. He and his parents were allowed to move away from the USSR to West Germany in 1972. His father Jonass was a Jewish engineer and his mother Ingeborga Levita (née Barga, nom-de-plume Aija Zemzare) a Latvian poetess. Egils earned degrees in political science and law before returning to Latvia in 1990 to help draft the Latvian declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. In 1993 he was elected to the Latvian parliament and went on to serve as Latvia’s justice minister and ambassador to Switzerland, Austria and Hungary. Levits was appointed Latvia’s representative at the European Court of Human Rights in 1995 and is currently the Latvian representative at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. He was elected president of Latvia by the parliament on May 29.
Speaking on Latvia’s Radio 1, Levits said he spends all his free time in Latvia with his family. “I like to walk around and meet ordinary people. I will get to know Latvia that way more profoundly and more personally than many of the politicians resident in Riga.”
Many Levits in Riga and Latvia hail from Panevėžys and Pabradė in Lithuania. Egils Levits, who likely has distant Litvak roots, has said Latvia should follow Lithuania’s example in supporting Jewish culture and history issues.
We congratulate Lithuania and Latvia on their newly elected presidents and are very proud of the great progress made by the Baltic states and their Jewish communities over thirty years of independence.
Photo: Igal Levits wuth mother Ingeborga. Courtesy Delfi.lv