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Records of the Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Institute, Vilna

Identifier: RG 24

Scope and Content Note

The collection is divided in two series:

1) Records of the Rabbinical School, 1847-1873. Administrative records include correspondence with Curator of the Vilna School District, Governor General of Vilna, Ministry of Education, St. Petersburg. Correspondence relates to the following topics: courses; appointment of teachers; school finances; teachers' affairs. Other records include financial reports, minutes of the Pedagogical Council. Files of students and teachers, lists of textbooks examination records. lists of towns and firms paying taxes for the support of the school, 1854-1855 materials relating to the closing of the Rabbinical School.

2) Records of the Teachers' Institute (through 1914). Correspondence with the Ministry of Education, the Vilna School District. Materials relating to the candle taxes, 1874. Financial records. Hiring of teachers and officials. Teachers' record books. Student affairs. Graduation certificates. Curricula, reports. List of students. Book of student grades. Reports on school work. Lists of permitted and prohibited books. Examination lists.


  • 1847-1916


Language of Materials

Russian with some Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

Use Restrictions

The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. copyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.

Historical Note

In 1844, as part of a plan to undermine the kheder system of education, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia passed a decree establishing state schools for Jewish children. Two types of schools were organized: a class I schools with a two-year program and a class II schools with a three and four-year program.

In 1847 the Rabbinical Schools of Vilna and Zhitomir were founded, as part of the educational reforms. The school in Vilna consisted of two divisions: a) a pedagogical section which trained teachers for Jewish state schools, b) a Rabbinical section which prepared state Rabbis.

The Rabbinical school offered a 4 year course on the secondary or “gymnasium” level. The director of the school was a Christian, but the supervisor for Jewish religious subjects was Jewish.

A percentage of the Jewish candle and meat tax was used for the financial upkeep of the schools. Rabbinical students enjoyed certain benefits, such as exemption from military service and from some taxes.

Because of the assimilationist policies these state schools were not favorably viewed by the Jewish population, and the Rabbinical school was not popular. In 1873 it was closed and only the pedagogical division continued its work. The Teachers’ Institute offered a four-year course to prepare teachers for service in the Jewish state elementary schools. It was staffed entirely by Christians except for the mathematics teacher and the teachers for Jewish subjects. The Teachers’ Institute was closed in1914.


21.25 Linear Feet


The Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Institute in Vilna was one of two Jewish state schools established in the Russian Empire in 1847 to train state appointed (kazënnye) rabbis and teachers for Jewish elementary state schools in the Pale of Settlement. The purpose of these schools was to undermine and replace the traditional kheder system of education. The other such school was in Zhitomir. The state schools were unpopular because of their assimilationist policies. The Vilna Rabbinical School was closed in 1873, but the Teachers' Institute remained in existence until 1914

Custodial History

The records of the Vilna Rabbinical School and of the Teachers’ Institute were received by the YIVO Archives in Vilna, sometime between 1925 and 1930. During the Nazi occupation of Vilna, in 1942, the records were looted by the Einsatzstab Rosenberg and sent to the NSDAP Institute Zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt-am-Main. In 1945 they were recovered by the U.S. army and returned to the YIVO in New York, via the U.S. army archival depot in Offenbach. The records arrived in New York in 1947.

An original inventory of the records compiled at the Teachers’ Institute in 1914, and covering the time period 1847-1914, was received by the YIVO Institute in Vilna at the time when the records were transferred to the YIVO Archives. However, not all records described therein are in the present collection. A large portion of the archive remains in Vilna and is deposited at the Central Historical Archives of Lithuania.

Folders 404 B, 404 C, 404 D, 405 A, and 406 B were moved from the Records of the Jewish State Schools in the Vilna School District, RG 52.

Processing Information

The Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Institute's records were maintained in a manner similar to all records generated by the Russian tsarist bureaucracy. The pages were bound, sewn together, titled, described by the school registrar and deposited in the school archives. Their arrangement in the original archives was chronological.

When the collection was arranged in 1980, it was decided not to cut open the volumes which had been bound, and to keep the records, as much as possible, in the order in which they had been generated by the school administration. The basis for the present arrangement is therefore chronological. Sometimes variations in the chronological order ocure.

When the Addendum was processed in 2015, it was decided to cut open the volumes which had been bound in order to prepare materials for digitization.

Guide to the Records of the Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Institute (Vilna) 1847-1916 RG 24
Originally processed by Marek Web in 1980. Edited by YIVO staff in 2006. Addenda materials processed, collection further described and finding aid encoded by Yakov Il'ich Sklar in 2015.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022). Additional work funded by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (Claims Conference) (2016). Earlier work funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (1979-1982), the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation (2006) and the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (2012).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States