Beginning in the eleventh century and increasingly through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Jews began migrating to Poland during eras of persecution and forced conversion of Jews by Christians in the Middle Ages. For centuries, Jewish people were able to develop thriving communities in Poland and to establish manageable relations between their Jewish and Catholic faith traditions.
After the World War 1 and Poland’s independence in 1918, antisemitic sentiments rose in the Poland’s interim war years. The mid-1930s saw the segregation of Jewish students in Polish universities and the rise of economically motivated pogroms (sporadic outbreaks of violence) against Polish Jews.
Yet, Polish Jews actively participated in Polish cultural life and they formed their own political parties. Religious orthodoxy supported the elections of any officials who would keep the needs of the Jewish community in mind. Anti-Zionists advocated for a secular, socialistic Poland. Zionists strove for equal rights of Polish Jews until their emigration to Palestine. The formation of Zionist youth groups, such as the Hashomer Hatzair, attracted young Jews dissatisfied with the political climate of Poland. They hoped for Jewish resettlement in Palestine. This rich cultural, religious, and political diversity was also alive in Będzin.
The Jewish community in Poland and Eastern Europe spoke mostly Yiddish, a language cultivated from a synthesis of the Middle High German, Hebrew, and Slavonic languages. Hebrew, however, remained the sacred language in Judaism. Jews also spoke Polish, and the more educated classes conversed in German.