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The Jewish community in Bialystok, dates back some 500 years. The story of these accomplishments is fascinating and unique. Until World War II, Jewish Bialystok was renowned in Russia, Poland and other countries as a center of commerce and industry. It was also celebrated for its Torah learning and charity, a broad network of cultural and community learnings, labor, art and industry.

The very emergence of Bialystok from a barren, uncultivated swampland in the forests of Eastern Poland into a flourishing, sprawling center of human life was a tribute to the creativity, industriousness and hard work of its Jews.

10th Century CE
the Bialystok region was populated by a barbaric Baltic-Latvian tribe.
Bialystok was founded as a village by the Lithuanian Count Gedimin. After being passed on from one generation of this Lithuanian family to the next, the village became the private fiefdom of King Zygmunt August, a Polish ruler in 1542. Late 16th century...the Arians, a heretical Christian cult, occupied Lithuania and Poland.
Bialystok went on to become an entrenched Polish territory.
the village of Bialystok was elevated to the status of a city.
Jews were granted equal rights. In that same year a large tower was erected that served as a detention center for criminals. At the base of the tower, eighty shops were constructed which were allocated for Jewish businessmen. Bialystok became a haven for Jews.
virtually the entire town was destroyed by a great fire. Later buildings of stone and brick are built to replace the fire-consumed edifices.
the city tower with the town clock is constructed.
Bialystok Jews totaled 765. In the next fifty years the Jewish community grew in both numbers and influence.
following the partition of Poland, Prussia annexed Bialystok. Napoleonic armies on their way to Russia took over control of Bialystok and ruled for one year.
Bialystok became the dominant city, surrounded by smaller satellite communities.
the first Jewish printing press in Bialystok was opened
the city fell into Russian hands.
Napoleon reconquered Lithuania and Poland.
after the Tilsit Peace Conference, Russia once again imposed its jurisdiction over the city, ruling for more than a century - until the first World War.
Poland regained control until the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
the first Polish census in the city of Bialystok contains 76,792 residents, of whom 39, 603 are Jews. 1932...the second Polish census in the city counts 91,000 residents, of whom 39,000 are Jews.
the Russians controlled Bialystok for two years. 1941...the Nazis captured the city and destroyed it in 1943.
Bialystok reverted to Poland. The above reflects a history of political and social instability in Bialystok for almost 1,000 years.

Under these conditions of flux and uncertainty, it is noteworthy that Bialystoker Jews found it possible to grow, build and establish security and continuity through the many institutions they established.

In 1807, about 6000 inhabitants lived in the city, 4,000 of them Jews. By 1897, 42,000 people inhabited Bialystok, the Jews constituting 64% of the population. Thus, from the Jewish community's inception until its brutal liquidation by the Nazis, the Jews played a major role in the life of Bialystok.

The Jewish community of Bialystok displayed the best traits of the Jewish people as a whole: ambition mixed with mercy. It left a record of rich and ennobling achievements. There was every reason to expect that many more pages would be added to the chronicle, which would have made it even more impressive, had Jewish Bialystok continued to exist.