Jakob Riffel was born in Blumenfeld on 21 March 1893. In 1915, he completed his secondary education in Moscow and began to study medicine. After two years, he moved to Yalta and became a tutor. In 1918, he emigrated to Germany and began theological training in Marburg. He was ordained in 1922 and in 1923 was sent to Argentina to serve the Volga German immigrants there. He was called in 1924 to lead the Lutheran Church in Lucas González, Entre Ríos, where he served until 1941.
In 1941, he assumed the pastoral charge of the Lutheran parish in Gualeguaychú, and in 1957 returned as pastor to Lucas González where he served until his death on 5 April 1958. He was buried in the Lutheran Cemetery in La Llave.
In 1924, he married Lydia Heine. They have four sons and one daughter. Along with his congregational service, Pastor Riffel devoted much time to researching the history of the Volga Germans in South America. He authored or co-authored a number of important publications including Rußlanddeutsche Ecke, Der Rußlanddeutsche, Pastoralbriefe, and Der Landbote.
Johannes Schleuning records,
In a letter to a Volga German, [Riffel] himself reports on his eventful educational journey, which was connected with the frequent change of residence of his father: "I was born on March 21, 1893 in the old style, or on April 3, 1893 in the new style in Blumenfeld, Gouv. Samara and grew up in Avilovo near Kamyshin until 1905. Then my parents were in Beideck (Talowka) in the poor house from 1905 to 1912. From there my parents were in Moscow in 1912-1915 and then, after my mother died, my father went back again to his home colony Shcherbakovka and later to Neu-Schilling as a schoolmaster. He died there in 1918. I first studied with my father in Avilovo, then for a year in Kamyshin in the community school with teacher Thaler and schoolmaster Kromm, from 1905-1911 I attended the Central School in Grimm, from 1911-1913 the Progymnasium in Katharinenstadt, from 1913-1915 the Petri-Pauli Church School in Moscow, from 1915-1917 the med. Faculty of the University of Moscow. From 1917-1918 I was private tutor in Yalta in the Crimea with Baron Ernst von Stackelberg (the brother of the master of ceremonies); then I was in Germany from 1918 to 1923 studying theology. I then wanted to go back to Russia, but was not allowed in."
In which Blumenfeld Pastor Riffel was born is up for some debate. He and his father's family are not recorded in the 1887-1900 "Family List" of the Blumenfeld located along the Belaya Kuba River.