Jakob Riffel was born in Blumenfeld on 3 October 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.