First Jewish settlers appeared in Jałówka at the end of the 18th century. In 1847, 372 Jews lived there. The community developed until the end of the 19th century. In 1870, it reached 400 inhabitants, in 1878 - 668 (61.2%), and in 1897 - 743 Jews out of a total population of 1,311 (65.7%).
Initially, there was no independent community in Jałówka. Local Jews were in the custody of the Jewish Community Co-operative in Świsłocza. Growing number of the Jewish community caused establishment of an independent community in the second half of the 19th century. For the needs of the kahal, a wooden synagogue with a Talmud Torah school and a beit ha-midrash was erected. At that time also, among others, the funeral fraternity Chevra Kadisha and Hachnasat Orchim and Hachnasat Kala charity organisations became active. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish community was headed by Rabbi Meir.
Jews living in Jałówka, just like in other villages in Podlasie, made their living from small trade and craft (carpentry, tailoring, bakers, butchers). There were also coopers and carters among them. Many of them also kept animals (including horses) and grew vegetables for their own use.
The largest concentration of the Jewish community was around the market square and in Dworna and Białostocka Streets (Polish: ul. Dworna and Białostocka). The community buildings, including two wooden synagogues (one of those had a cheder), were located at Szeroka Street (Polish: ul. Szeroka). There was an old Jewish cemetery next to one of the synagogues. A new Jewish cemetery was also established in the 19th century.
At the end of the 19th century, the population of the Jewish community began to decline, which was related to economic emigration. During World War I, many Jews fled deep into Russia. During the Second Polish Republic, people continued to leave for economic reasons. According to the census of 1921, there were 588 Jews out of a total population of 1,211 (48.6%). In 1938, about 100 Jewish families lived in Jałówka.
During the German occupation (1915-1918), political organisations started to operate in Jałówka and developed between 1918 and 1939. Among them were the Zionists (39 delegates from Jałówka took part in the 11th Zionist Congress in 1931) and the Bund. In the interwar period, there were cheders and Talmud-Torah for boys (apart from classes concerning Judaism, the general education curriculum was implemented, including Polish classes), and girls attended a Polish elementary school. Over time, a Jewish elementary school was established.
In September 1939, the Soviet army entered Jałówka. Shops and craftsmen's workshops were nationalised. All schools were sovietised. Jewish refugees from German-occupied territories appeared in the village. After 17 September 1939, there were about 850 people of Jewish descent in Jałówka. Some of them as so-called „Bieżeńcy (English: Refugees)” was deported deep into the USSR as part of the Third Deportation in the summer of 1940.
After the German-Soviet war broke out, Jałówka fell under German occupation in June 1941. The new occupier made it compulsory for Jews to wear the yellow Star of David and forbade them to walk on the pavements or have contact with non-Jews. Famine prevailed, which was related among other things to the confiscation of animals. Jews were used for hard labour. In the autumn of 1942, there were about 600 Jews in Jałówka.
On 2 November 1942, with the help of Ukrainian policemen, the Germans surrounded the town and concentrated the Jews in the market square. They then transported all of them in wagons to a German Nazi transit camp near Wołkowysk. Not a single Jewish person remained in Jałówka. After a month, on 2 December 1942, most of the Jews were deported from near Wołkowysk to the German Nazi extermination camp Treblinka II.
The Germans demolished the beit ha-midrash and moved it to Dublany. They also liquidated the old cemetery. In 1944, while retreating, they burned down the synagogue. A new Jewish cemetery and a building of a bathhouse by the Jałówka river have survived in rudimentary form until the present day.
- Wiśniewski T., Bóżnice Białostocczyzny. Heartland of the Jewish Life Synagogues and Jewish Communities in Bialystok Region, Białystok 1992, pp. 155–156;
- “Jalowka” Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Poland, Volume VIII (Poland), [in:] JewishGen [online] https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_poland/pol8_00368.html [accessed: 15 April 2021.].