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Polish Jews


    The date of the arrival of the first Jews onto Polish soil is unknown. Ibrahim ibn Jakub in the account of his journey in 965 mentioned Krakow and wrote of his first historic Duke of Poland, Mieszko I. The author of these historically valuable notes was certainly not the only Jew to travel through the Piast lands. Some settled here permanently with their families to make their livelihoods through commerce and the crafts. In later times, banished from many countries, victims of social and religious upheavals, intolerance, and persecution, Jews looked to Poland for asylum and here they found it.

    Polish dukes and kings, such as Boleslaw Pobozny and Kazimierz Wielki, appreciated their talents and thus granted them privileges and conditions for a peaceful life. Boleslaw Pobozny's Charter of Kalisz guaranteed full security for Jews, their communities, and property.

    The major influx of Jews into Poland took place between the 12th and 15th centuries. This was the period when the Crusades and the Holy Inquisition led to the persecutions of Jews in the countries of Western Europe and their subsequent wandering eastwards in search for asylum. They found the protection and tolerance they sought in Poland, a country that was, at that time, poorly developed and in need of merchants and craftsmen.

    Poland became host over time to the largest concentration of Jews in Europe and the most potent hub for Jewish culture as well. Poland became home to primarily the Ashkenazi, and the Sephardi. There existed a diversity of various religious and cultural currents, from Chassidim a movement for religious renewal in Poland as Podolia (now the Ukraine) under the leadership of the legendary Baal-szem-tov all the way through progressive movements of the Enlightenment - the Maskilim (proponents of assimilation).


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