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Records of the TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye)

Identifier: RG 48

Scope and Content Note

The records of the TSYSHO school system reflect the activities of the TSYSHO Central Office in Warsaw, the Central Education Committee (TSBK) branch in Vilna and individual schools throughout Poland, from 1919-circa 1940. Most of the materials relate to the TSBK office and schools. A few dozen schools are represented by the present materials, which are only a portion of YIVO's pre-war holdings.

The records consist of correspondence, correspondence registers, circulars, minutes, reports, speeches, questionnaires, lists, financial statements, student notebooks and classwork, student applications, diplomas, invitations, announcements, clippings, school timetables and curriculum outlines. The TSBK schools in Vilna are particularly well represented. Among the records of the TSBK elementary and secondary schools in Series III can be found classwork and compositions written on a common topic assigned by YIVO researchers to students in all the schools.


  • 1919-1940


Language of Materials

In Yiddish and Polish.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Use Restrictions

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Historical Note

TSYSHO is an acronym for Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye (Central Yiddish School Organization). Founded in 1921 at a Yiddish teachers' conference in Warsaw, the TSYSHO was a secular, Yiddishist and socialist school system which consisted of the Central Office in Warsaw, a branch office in Vilna called the TSBK (Tsentraler Bildungs Komitet, or Central Education Committee) and a network of schools which included kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools, a teachers' seminary and evening schools. The founders of the TSYSHO were either members of the Bund party or the left Poalei Zion. Their purpose was to promote the ideals of socialism and Yiddishism by providing a strong administrative center and organizational framework for an already existing group of Yiddish schools.

Among the leading figures in the TSYSHO central board were Beinish Mikhalevich, Jacob Pat, Jacob Lestschinsky, N. Buchsbaum, Chaim Kazdan, Shlomo Mendelson, and S.F. Gilinski. The Central Office exercised control in both administrative and educational matters. Its administrative functions consisted mainly of collecting and distributing funds to TSYSHO schools to support teachers' salaries, school building maintenance, teachers' courses, summer camps and children's feeding programs.

In the educational field, the Central Office took part in setting curriculum standards by preparing curriculum outlines, and choosing or publishing textbooks and pedagogical journals. Preparation of curricula included complication of Yiddish vocabulary lists to meet the needs generated by new subjects. Among the publications were the well-known pedagogical journals: Di naye shul (The New School), Shul un lebn (School and Life), and Shul vegn (School Ways).

Extra-curricular activities included a teachers' placement service, teachers' conferences, national level exhibits and psychological research programs. Noteworthy are the Mendele Moykher Seforim Exhibit of 1936, the Sholem Aleichem exhibit of 1937, the Education Conference in Vilna, 1937, and the Conference of History Teachers, Vilna, 1939. In addition, in Vilna TSBK sponsored the Yiddish Teachers' Seminary conferences in 1922 on Yiddish, natural sciences, Hebrew and history. The research activities consisted of psychological surveys conducted among TSYSHO children to test physical, mental, and emotional development.

The TSYSHO curriculum emphasized Yiddish language and literature, Jewish history and culture, sciences, mathematics, music, physical education, art, physical skills such as woodworking, and upholstery and gardening. Polish language, literature, geography and history were required by the government. Hebrew was included but did not play a major role; all subjects were taught in Yiddish.

The TSYSHO had three types of financial sources. A compulsory tuition fee of about 2-4 zlotys a month was introduced in all schools and became a regular source of income. Professional labor unions sympathetic to the Yiddish school system also contributed regularly. Third, relief societies from the United States, England and Canada sent subsidies, especially in the 1920s. The Joint Distribution Committee, the most significant of these organizations, sent substantial amounts until the depression period when the subsidies were stopped. Throughout its existence, TSYSHO suffered from severe financial insecurity and received no support from the Polish state.

Although obtaining legal recognition was high on the list of priorities and delegates were frequently sent to the Polish Ministry of Education to request state approval, the TSYSHO was never successful in its objective. The government's attitude was negative and suspicious because of TSYSHO's socialist affiliations. Existing schools were frequently closed by the state on trumped-up charges such as poor physical and hygienic conditions. Some individual schools, for example the Yiddish Teachers' Seminary in Vilna, succeeded in obtaining some kind of legal recognition.

The years between 1920 to 1929 were a time of growth, whereas those from 1930-1934 were marked by a decline in the number of schools as well as a drop in the quality of education. In 1935, the professional labor unions promised renewed support for TSYSHO and the period from 1935-1937 was marked by new development.

The figures below are taken from Jewish Schools in Poland, 1919-1939 by Miriam Eisenstein and The History of Jewish School Systems in Independent Poland (in Yiddish) by Chaim Kazdan:

Year Schools Students
1921 104 13,457
1925 182
1929 216 24,000
1933-1934 68
1934-1935 169 15,486
1936-1937 17,000

The TSYSHO Central Office probably closed its doors in September 1939, with the outbreak of World War II. During the Warsaw Ghetto period, clandestine classes were conducted in children's kitchens. In 1940-1941, Yiddish schools were permitted by the Germans on a very limited scale.

The TSBK School Board in Vilna

The Tsentrale Bildungs Komitet, or Central Education Committee, was formed in 1919. Earlier that year the Vilna Jewish Community Council had taken over the entire Jewish school system. As the Yiddish secular schools took exception to the Community Council's administrative policy, a separate school board was formed which became the center for all Yiddish schools in the city.

The TSBK was similar to the TSYSHO Central Office in philosophy and function except that the school network under it was much smaller. It assumed financial responsibility for the schools, opened new schools such as the Yiddish Teachers' Seminary and the Humanistic Gymnasium (humanities-oriented secondary school), encouraged pedagogical research, planned curriculum, organized exhibits, and chose and published textbooks and other educational publications. In addition, it established a parents' committee and children's clubs.

In 1919 there were 17 schools; in 1920 there were 28 schools; and in 1922 there were 4,358 students under the TSBK. The administration included Dr. H. Kowarski, Zalman Reisen, G. Pludermacher, S. Bostomski, Y. Rubin, R. Simchowitz, Abraham Golomb, Jacob Pat, Israel Okun, Max Erik, Max Weinreich, S. Gurevitch, and I. Gurevitch.

The TSBK's income was based on tuition fees, money from American relief societies, local aid societies in Vilna, and the TSYSHO in Warsaw.

In 1924 the TSBK School Almanac listed the following 17 institutions under its jurisdiction:

  1. Ber Borochov, kindergarten, f. 1920.
  2. Grininke Beimelekh, kindergarten, f. 1911, reorg. 1919-1920.
  3. S. Frug School, f. 1908.
  4. D. Kuperstein Girls' Schools, f. 1912.
  5. L. Gurwicz School.
  6. J. Dinesohn School.
  7. Two schools named after S. Anski.
  8. Y. L. Peretz Evening School, f. 1901.
  9. Ratner Evening School, f. 1920.
  10. Mathematics-Sciences Gymnasium (Real Gymnasium), f. 1918.
  11. Humanistic Gymnasium f. 1923.
  12. Yiddish Teachers' Seminary f. 1921.
  13. Children's Home, for working class children.
  14. Children's Library.

With some changes, the list is valid for most of the TSBK period.

Short historical notes are provided for the Yiddish Teachers' Seminary, the Mathematics-Sciences Gymnasium, the Humanistic Gymnasium, and the Mefitsei Haskalah Boys' School.

Yiddish Teachers' Seminary

The Yiddish Teachers' Seminary was founded in 1921 by the TSBK as a 4-year program whose purpose was to produce teachers for the TSYSHO schools. In 1921 there were 21 students; in 1925 the first graduation took place with 25 graduates. Among the heads of the seminary were S. M. Gurevitch. R. Simchovitch, Abraham Golomb, and Dr. I. Biber. The curriculum was based on the TSYSHO philosophy and fulfilled government prerequisites as well. Student teaching was done in the L. Gurwicz School. The seminary had a dormitory. Official state recognition was granted to the seminary in the early 1920s. In 1931 the school was closed by the Polish government for political reasons.

Mathematics-Sciences Gymnasium (Real Gymnasium)

The Mathematics-Sciences Gymnasium was the first Yiddish language high school in Vilna. Also called the Real Gymnasium, it opened in 1918 with about 300 children. By 1922-1923, the school went up to the 8th grade. In 1923 the first graduation took place with 55 graduates. By 1922-1923 there were 18 classes and 700 students. Besides regular studies as prescribed by the Polish government, Yiddish, Jewish history and Hebrew were taught. Emphasis was placed on establishment of student clubs and on self-government among the students. After much effort, the gymnasium acquired government status in 1933.

Humanistic Gymnasium

The Humanistic Gymnasium was opened in 1923 by the TSBK with 4 classes and 140 students. The purpose of the new school was to provide instruction for the students whose talents lay in the humanities rather than the sciences. By 1925 there were 200 students.

Mefitsei Haskalah Boys' School

The Mefitsei Haskalah Boys' School was founded as a Yiddish school in 1915 by the Mefitsei Haskalah Society. In 1919 the school was taken over by the TSBK. The first graduation took place in 1921; by 1924 there were 350 students. In 1928, following a dispute, I. Gurevitch, the school's director for many years, left the TSBK and participated in the founding of the Shul-kult school system. In the 1930s the school was renamed after Zemach Szabad and was thereafter called the Szabad Boys' School.


3.75 Linear Feet


The TSYSHO, Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye (Central Yiddish School Organization) was a secular Yiddish school system active in Poland from 1921 to circa 1940. Based in Warsaw, the TSYSHO maintained a network of elementary schools, high schools, and teachers' seminaries. An important branch office existed in Vilna, the Tsentraler Bildungs Komitet (Central Education Committee) or TSBK. Most of the records of this collection relate to the TSBK in Vilna and its schools. A much smaller quantity relates to the Central Office in Warsaw, to the YSHO (Yidishe Shul Organizatsye - Yiddish School Organization), Vilna province, and to TSYSHO schools throughout Poland.


The collection is divided into the following 5 series:

  1. Series I: Records of the TSYSHO Central Office, Warsaw, 1921-1939
  2. Series II: Records of the Central Education Committee (TSBK) Office, Vilna, 1919-1938
  3. Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1919-1938
  4. Subseries 2: Administrative Records, 1919-1938
  5. Series III: Records of the Central Education Committee (TSBK) Schools, Vilna, 1919-1940
  6. Subseries 1: Kindergarten and Elementary, 1919-1940
  7. Subseries 2: Gymnasiums, 1919-1940
  8. Subseries 3: Yiddish Teachers' Seminary, 1920-1933
  9. Subseries 4: Central Education Committee (TSBK) Schools, Miscellaneous Records, 1919-1940
  10. Series IV: Records of TSYSHO schools throughout Poland, 1919-1940
  11. Series V: Addendum, 1931-1937

Custodial History

The records were originally part of the Pedagogical Museum of the YIVO Archives in Vilna. "Friends of YIVO" collecting societies, established in many TSYSHO schools, donated their own school materials and sometimes office records as well. Classwork was collected in a special manner. YIVO representatives visited all schools in a given area and assigned the same composition title to the same grade in each school. They then collected the compositions and analyzed them.

During the Nazi occupation of Vilna in 1942, the records were looted by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) 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.

Processing Information

As the records of the Pedagogical Museum had been filed by topic with no regard for provenance, they were rearranged in 1982, item by item. Several new record groups were separated by this process, among them the records of the TSYSHO school system.

Items subsequently identified as belonging to the records of TSYSHO and its network have been processed as addenda.

Guide to the Records of the TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye)
Originally processed by Fruma Mohrer in 1982. Finding aid encoded by Dianne Ritchey Oummia and Yakov Sklyar in 2006. Materials further processed, described, and prepared for digitization by Jessica Podhorcer in 2018.
© 2019
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). 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).

Revision Statements

  • January 2019: Series V: Addendum, folders 103-105 created.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States