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The Vilna Collection represents fragmentary materials that were part of the original YIVO collection in Vilna before WWII. The collection includes a wide array of materials dealing with a great variety of aspects of Jewish life in the Pre-revolutionary Russian Empire and post-revolutionary Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Soviet Russia.
The Collection consists of personal correspondence, official correspondence with organizations and governmental institutions, financial and statistical reports, minutes of meetings of Jewish communal and political organizations, bibliographic materials, including card catalogues and bibliographies. Also included here are vital documents, such as birth certificates and birth registers, affidavits, certificates, diplomas, and travel documents. Additionally, there are petitions, resolutions, appeals, printed materials, manuscripts, lists, and questionnaires. There is a wealth of materials dealing with various aspects of the Jewish book trade and publishing. There are materials on Jewish booksellers and Jewish libraries, most notably Leon Lipschutz. These materials consist of correspondence, lists, bibliographic and printed materials, financial documents, and manuscripts. A large portion of the collection deals with Jewish publishers, such as Rosekranc and Schriftsetzer Publishers, Romm Publishing House, Krejnes Printing House, and other smaller publishing houses across Europe. These materials consist of correspondence, financial documents such as receipts, contracts, bills, lists, manuscripts, and printed materials, including lists of publications and catalogues. Materials pertaining to Jewish youth and sports organizations mostly deal with the Zionist Blau Weiss youth movement, Jutrzenka w Tarnowe, and many local Maccabi Sports Societies. These materials consist of correspondence, statutes, minutes of meetings, lists, clippings, statistical tables, reports, printed materials, appeals to members, field trips materials, financial documents, newsletters, questionnaires, diplomas, and invitations.
Another aspect of Jewish life that is well represented in this collection is Jewish education. These materials pertain to private and state schools, both, secular, religious. There are also materials dealing with technical and vocational schools, as well as institutions of higher education, such as YIVO Vilna Aspirantur. Materials on Jewish education consist of lists, certificates, statutes, diplomas, correspondence, minutes of meetings, resolutions, lists of teachers, student ID cards, school newspapers, certificates, diplomas, teaching materials, and reports and evaluations. There are materials dealing with schools as well as educational and vocational institutions such as ORT, Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary, Chojrev, and Technikum Wilenskie. Furthermore, there are materials pertaining to the Jewish Teachers' Union and Union of Mutual Aid to Assist Jewish Teachers. Materials concerning local Jewish communities pertain to a variety of subjects including everyday activity of Jewish Communal Councils, WWI, pogroms, charitable work, and political activities. These materials consist of correspondence, minutes of meetings, lists, petitions, registries, and financial documents. The Vilna Collection also includes materials on Jewish cultural, social, and political organizations. There are materials pertaining to the Jewish Folks Congress in Poland and Czernowitz Conference, with the original materials from Dovid Pinski and Max Weinreich, materials dealing with Folkspartei, Frayland-lige, Keren Hayesod in Vilna, Kultur Lige, Mizrachi Party, HIAS, OZE, and professional unions. The Yiddish intellectual scene is represented by leading figures such as Elye Spivak from the Institute for Yiddish Proletarian Culture, Herman Krug, Alfred Landau, Y. Lichtenstein, Janus Korczak, Jacob Shatzky, YIVO’s Max Weinreich, Nochum Shtif, Zalmen Reyzen, Elias Tcherikower, and many others. There is correspondence, manuscripts, printed and conference materials that shed light on the leading figures of the Yiddish renaissance.