The first mention of the existence of a Jewish Municipality in Bilgoraj indicate that Jewish nationality appeared in it in the late sixteenth century. An extremely important moment, after which there has been a rapid growth of Jewish community, was providing the privilege of freedom for the Jewish settlement. The privilege was granted by Zbigniew Gorajski, the son of the founder of the city. The Jews living in Bilgoraj were mainly devoted to trade. Other popular professions, apart from trade, were tailoring, shoemaking as well as making sieves. The population lived mainly around the market square and adjacent streets. In 1728, the Jews received the permission to build a synagogue and cementary. At the end of the 18th century, among 2176 city residents, there were 418 Jews – which comprised 19% of the total urban community.

The 19th century brought a further increase in the number of Jewish residents to 3486, which accounted for over 65 % of the population living in the city. The Jews had the synagogue, Jewish cemeteries, the house of  worship, schools and baths. The activeness of Jews living in Bilgoraj revealed mainly in the field of economic life. Almost all trade in Bilgoraj was in their hands. The largest Jewish financial potentate was Szmul Ela Szwerdszarf – a timber merchant and a tenant of forests who maintained business contacts with major contemporary entrepreneurs in Poland and abroad. The poor part of the Jewish community found employment mainly as a hired labour in craft workshops.

The Singer brothers spent their teenage years (1917-1922) in Bilgoraj. They were later the prominent Jewish writers who created mainly in Yiddish: Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) – the author of ‘Manor’, ‘Legacy’, ‘The Magician of Lublin’ and ‘Satan in Goray’, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, and Israel Joszua Singer (1893-1944) the author of family sagas: ‘The Brothers Ashkenazi’ and ‘Family Carnovsky’. The person who had authority among the Rabbis in Bilgoraj was Jacob Mordechaj Zylberman, Isaac’s grandfather who himself served as a Rabbi for 30 years.

From 1909 until 1939, there were printeries in Bilgoraj that printed religious works in Hebrew. The most prestigious printeries belonged to Nathan Kronenberg, Mordko Werner and Max Kaminera. In the interwar years the Hasidic leader, Motel Koreach, lived in Bilgoraj. He was considered a miracle-worker by the Hasids living in the neighbourhood.

At the outbreak of the second World War, the Jewish community of Bilgoraj had more than 5000 inhabitants, which was slightly more than 60% of all the inhabitants of the city.

On 8 September, the German air force bombed the city. On September 11th, at approx. 10 o’clock in the morning, the German saboteurs set fire to Bilgoraj in dozens of points. The fire lasted all day. 1006 buildings burned down, The Town Hall and the centre of Bilgoraj as well as church and the synagogue. The city was destroyed in about 70%. On September 14th after another bombing, the German invaders occupied the city.

In June 1940, Germany established a ghetto for Jews from Bilgoraj and the nearest town. From the beginning of the occupation of the city there was an escalating persecution against the Jewish population. In 1941, the armbands have been established for the Jews. Apart from the local Jewish population staying in the ghetto, there were also Jews from other European countries which were under German occupation.

The ghetto was liquidated in November 1942. Almost the entire local Jewish population was murdered in the Belzec extermination camp.

The only memento of Bilgoraj Jewish population today are the remains of the local Jewish cemetery which was completely devastated during the occupation and completely forgotten for a long time. The renovation of 50 preserved tombstones took place in 1986. The cemetery was issued a monument to the memory of the Jews of Bilgoraj and the surrounding area, who were murdered there by the Nazis. On September 6th, 2016, ‘The Wall of Memory’ was unveiled. This was a tribute dedicated to the Jews of Bilgoraj.

Bilgoraj, for years, was inhabited by many followers of the Orthodox religion. The first Orthodox Church in Bilgoraj was built in 1617 as the inscription on one of the beams of church buildings proves. The old church was destroyed in the mid 18 century. In the years 1790-1793 St. George’s church was built of brick. Later, in 1919 it was taken over and converted into the Roman Catholic Temple. The year 1875 in which there has been a dissolution of the Union of Brest, was the time when many Orthodox Christians returned to the faith of their fathers. This was also the case of Bilgoraj. It was the time of stable development of the Orthodox Church.

For the record: The Union of Brest was concluded  in 1596 between Bishops of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. As a result of the Union, the Uniate Church was created. It promised the Orthodox to accept the sovereignty of the Pope and to recognize the dogmas of the Catholic Church. In exchange for this they preserved the Orthodox rite, the Julian Calendar, the administrative structure and church Slavonic language. Currently, the continuators of  the Uniate Church are Greek Catholics.

In 1875 the St. George’s Church on Kosciuszki Street was designed as an Orthodox Church and it was used by its followers up till 1914. At this time, along with the paragraph administration of the Russian Empire, all Orthodox Christians were evacuated to Russia, it was called ‘Biezenstwo’.

At that time, only a small group of Orthodox Christians stayed in Bilgoraj. Church services were still held, only not systematically. In 1919, the Church and the entire Orthodox property was taken over under the regulations of the Ministry of agriculture. This regulation was published in the Polish Monitor, the official journal of the Republic of Poland on June 20, 1919. In 1921 the Orthodox community began to return to their homeland. Because of the absence of the Temple, the Orthodox divine services took place in private homes or in the cementaries during the summer season. In the 1920s Orthodox community of Bilgoraj constituted a large group of residents of the city. It may be proved by the fact that in 1927 the Orthodox hosted a supervisor of the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Dionysius, when he visited the area. (We can read in the archives preserved documents.)

During the second World War, in 1941, the church again belonged to the followers of the orthodoxy. This continued until 1945, in which there has been a displacement of Orthodox community to the Soviet Ukraine. The situation has occurred in all the Orthodox parishes in the district of Bilgoraj. Because of the absence of the Temple, the remaining orthodox community in Bilgoraj had to attend the Temple in Tarnogrod, 20 km away. This state of affairs lasted until 2006 when the Diocese of Lublin and Chelm purchased a place for the needs of Orthodox community living in Bilgoraj.