Jews may have lived in Baligród during the very first years of the town's existence. A Jewish man called Zelman, who lived in the area of Woronikówka, was described in the historical records dating back to 1605. Up until the end of the 18th century, the Jewish community of Baligród most probably functioned as a part of the Jewish Community Co-operative of Lesko. Later on, Baligród gained full autonomy. In 1710, the town had 148 Jewish inhabitants (and 533 inhabitants in total).
The town suffered great damage during the Great Northern War, which caused its population to decrease dramatically. In 1764, there were only 114 Jews living there. The entire Jewish kahal of Baligród (comprising the town and 10 surrounding villages) totaled 144 people. 20 years later, however, the Jewish community grew stronger; 400 out of 728 inhabitants of Baligród were Jewish. This number increased mainly due to the influx of settlers from Lesko and Sanok[1.1]. By 1808, the community of Baligród had its own bathhouse and hospital (i.e. house for the poor).
In 1870, Baligród was home to 147 Jewish families and only 90 Christian families (its Jewish population amounted to 435 people in total). Only ten years later, however, the proportion changed to 564 Jews and 544 Christians. In the years 1870-1898, a Jew by the name of Hersz Grossinger owned a number of properties located in the town, as well as several farms in the surrounding villages of Bystre, Cisna, Huczwice, Mchawa, Rabe, and Stężnica. After his death, the properties were inherited by his sons, Lazar and Chaim. The Loans Society started to operate in Baligród in 1896, with Juda Hersz Mittman working as its president. Among other Jewish businesses in the town were: a tavern run by Lip Meisels, a guesthouse and inn owned by Hinde Weithmann, two wineries and several shops. Hersz Blank was the local baker, Izaak Morgenbesser was the butcher, and Juda Falek was the tailor.
The first synagogue in Baligród was most probably built at the beginning of the 18th century, but the first official record of its existence comes from 1870. The Jewish community of the town had its own cemetery and religious school, which had 40 students. The second synagogue, a brick building with hipped roof, was built at the turn of the 19th century. It was located in the northwestern corner of the main square, on the street leading up to the cemetery.
In 1900, the entire Jewish community comprised 2,484 people, 988 of which lived in Baligród proper (amounting to 61.5% of the entire population). Right before the outbreak of WWI, the latter number rose to about 1,100. By 1921, however, mass emigration caused the population to decline to 515 people. In the last years before WWII, Baligród had about 990 Jewish inhabitants. The town was a typical shtetl and most Jews who lived there were supporters of Hasidism. Most members of the Jewish community made their living from trade and craft; their activity increased greatly during market days. They traded in wine and wood and owned numerous taverns. In the interwar period, the political ideology that prevailed in the town was Zionism[1.2].
During WWII and the German occupation, Baligród became an assembly point for Jews living in small villages in the Bieszczady Mountains, such as Solina, Wołkowyja, and Zawóz. During the summer of 1942, Germans sent about 1200 local Jews to the Zasław concentration camp. The Jewish cemetery served as a place of executions of Jews and Poles. Among those shot was Franciszek Wronowski, who was from the village of Zawóz. The two Jewish families, the Wajners and the Nagielbaums, who he had been hiding, were shot along with him. The synagogue was burned by Germans and its ruins were dismantled after the war.
After WWII, the Jewish community never returned to Baligród. The family of Michael Schudrich, the current Chief Rabbi of Poland, has roots in the town. The rabbi’s mother’s parents, the Roth family, used to live there.
- "Baligród", in: Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. 1, ed. Sh. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, pp. 81–82.
Potocki A., Żydzi w Podkarpackiem (Jews in the Podkarpacie Region), Rzeszów, 2004
Translated by: Natalia Kłopotek
Edited by: Ricki Birnbaum