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Records of the Yidisher lerer fareyn (Yiddish Teachers' Union), Vilna

Identifier: RG 50

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of the administrative records of the Yiddish Teachers’ Union. Though incomplete, the records indicate the size of the union; the schools and teachers under its aegis; its activities and concerns; forms of support provided to teachers; collaboration with other organizations, including supplying teachers to summer camps; economic difficulties in Vilna as a whole and for teachers in particular.

The records are richest in correspondence, minutes, and contribution lists. Correspondence from teachers, schools, and organizations is particularly well-represented. Further correspondence from organizations has been located and arranged in the collection’s addendum. The minutes record meetings of the Executive Board, as well as joint meetings with the Hebrew Teachers' Union and occasionally with ORT (The Society for Handicraft and Agricultural Work among the Jews of Russia), TSBK (Central Education Committee), or individual schools. They also include minutes of general meetings of all union members, and meetings of the library committee, pedagogical council, instructors committee, conflict committee, presidium, and strike committee.

The membership applications contained in this collection provide a great deal of information about the YTU's membership, including teachers' background, education, and familial status. More information on teachers' backgrounds can be found in the teachers' correspondence file, which includes scattered items predating the YTU. Collection lists provide insight into teaching assignments and salary at the schools in Vilna. Evidence of the YTU's relationship with schools and teachers exists within the organizational correspondence file, in the 1921-1922 dues ledgers, and scattered among the minutes, financial records, and various lists and notes.

Financial records, circulars, and printed matters are less well represented. Materials include daybooks, budgets, trial balances, invoices, invitations, forms, and come circulars and clippings. Though not extensive, sufficient material is present relating to the Strike Committee, Hebrew Teachers' Union, and YTU library to warrant dedicated folders for each.


  • 1898, 1910-1940
  • Majority of material found within 1916-1940


Language of Materials

In Yiddish and Polish with some Hebrew, Russian and Lithuanian.

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

The Yidisher lerer fareyn (Yiddish Teachers' Union) was a professional organization active in Vilna from 1915 to 1940. It worked for the interests of teachers of Yiddish secular schools and was closely affiliated with the TSYSHO (Central Yiddish School Organization) and the TSBK (Central Education Committee) in Vilna. By the early 1920s teachers of other types of schools were also members. For example, by 1925 the YTU represented the interests of the Tarbut Hebrew Teachers' Seminary. There are visible signs of cooperation between the Yiddish and Hebrew Teachers' Union in the form of joint meetings. In addition, religious schools such as Toras Emes and Ezra were among those contributing membership dues.

Founded in September 1915 after the Russians' retreat from Vilna, the YTU's original purpose was both political and practical. Its early by-laws recognize the socialist principle of class struggle and uphold the secular Yiddish school system and the policy of Yiddish as the language of instruction. In practical terms the YTU was a union of teachers, which met regularly to protect and improve the working conditions of teachers as well as promote the general welfare of students and teachers in the schools. It established uniform salary scales throughout the Vilna region and lobbied actively for higher salaries, both at the Vilna Kehillah Education Department and at the TSBK central office. It led several teachers' strikes against the Vilna Kehillah in the late '20s and '30s, forming a special strike committee which supervised daily strike activities.

The YTU ran a placement service for teachers seeking positions in Yiddish schools. It maintained special funds, such as a sick fund and distributed clothes and money regularly to needy teachers. It adjudicated in teacher administration conflicts. In the educational field, the YTU had some control over curricula in the Vilna region and published a program of geography and science. In 1916-1917 the YTU gave courses in which 50 teachers participated. Committees were appointed to work out Yiddish terminologies of arithmetic, geometry and geography. A YTU library was set up and the budget provided for library upkeep and improvement.

On the community level the YTU assumed an interest in cultural, educational activities as well as in relief work. For example, when a YTU investigation of living conditions in a Vilna children's home revealed that the home was in a deplorable state, the OZE (Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population) was requested to step in and provide relief. The YTU participated in cultural events such as the city-wide commemoration of I.L. Peretz, and sent representatives to these events.

YTU income was based on subsidies from the Vilna Kehillah and TSBK, donations from abroad, and, most importantly, membership dues sent in regularly by schools. Expenses included general maintenance costs, publicity, aid activities such as the sick fund, loans to needy teachers, cultural activities, publications and the library.

Members of the Executive Board included Gershon Pludermacher, B. Silberbein, Shloyme Bostomski, Halpern, Reines, Khane Shur, Gurwicz, Lubocki. Members of the Hebrew Teachers' Union, which may have merged with the YTU at a later date included Yitzhak Senitsky, Yeveliovitch, Tsemel, Olnitsky.


2.2 Linear Feet


The Yidisher lerer fareyn (Yiddish Teachers' Union) in Vilna was a professional association of secular Yiddish teachers, which supported the ideology of the TSYSHO school system. The union engaged in a wide range of activities in order to promote the interests of its member teachers. Its membership, although composed primarily of Yiddish teachers expanded gradually to include teachers from religious and Hebrew schools. Founded in 1915, the union lasted until c. 1940. The records of the Yiddish Teachers' Union reflect its activities from 1916-1940.


The collection is divided into 3 series and an addendum, whose arrangement mirrors the collection as a whole. The series as arranged as follows:

Series I: Correspondence with Teachers, 1898, 1910-1940
Series II: Correspondence with Organizations, 1916-1938
Series III: Administrative Records, 1917-1938
Subseries 1: General Administrative Records, 1917-1934
Subseries 2: Dues and Membership Records, 1918-1938
Series IV: Addendum, undated, 1916-1936
Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1916-1936
Subseries 2: Administrative Records, undated, 1921-1923, 1933

Custodial History

Originally in the Pedagogical Museum of the YIVO Archives in Vilna. In 1942, during the Nazi occupation of Vilna, 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.

Related Material

Related material can be found in RG 48, Records of the TSYSHO (Central Yiddish School Organization). RG 24, Records of Rabbinical School and Teachers’ Institute, may contain information on the pedagogical training of some of the teachers represented in this collection.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed in 1982 by Fruma Mohrer, with the support of a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Processing of the addendum was carried out by Jessica Podhorcer in 2019 during preparation of the collection for digitization as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Online Collections project.

Guide to the Records of the Yidisher Lerer Fareyn (Yiddish Teachers' Union), Vilna, 1898, 1910-1940 RG 50
Originally processed by Fruma Mohrer in 1982. Finding aid encoded by Yakov Il'ich Sklar in 2006. Materials further processed, described and prepared for digitization by Jessica Podhorcer in 2019.
© 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 Gruss Lipper Family Foundation (2006).

Revision Statements

  • January 2019: Series IV Addendum, folders 59-69 created.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

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New York NY 10011 United States