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Jewish urban life in the YIVO Institute’s collections

The results of our close collaboration with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (New York) have been harvested on Europeana recently. They include large quantities of books, photographs and other archival collections.

Even a cursory tour through the photos in the YIVO archives is enough to make one question long-held stereotypes about pre-World War II Jewish life in Eastern Europe. The collection has its share of images of small town and even village Jewish life in Poland, Russia, and other East European lands, but these are matched or perhaps even outnumbered, by thousands of photographs of urban Jewish life. On display in these photos is a Jewish world on the move, with both a developing industrial proletariat and a rising middle class. YIVO, best-known as being the foremost resource for the study of East European Jewry, also has important collections on Central and Western Europe, as well as other Jewish communities around the world.

Photos of urban occupations
cover for Vilna Collections leaflet

Reuniting the Vilna collections: a landmark digital initiative
Hidden from the Nazis in the Vilna Ghetto, and later from the Soviets, many treasures of the Vilna collections were rediscovered in 1988 and since then held at the Lithuanian Central State Archives and the National Library of Lithuania. The YIVO Vilna Collections – A Landmark Digital Initiative was launched in 2015 in partnership with the Lithuanian custodians of these collections with the aim to catalogue, conserve and digitize 10,000 rare books and periodicals, and 1.5 million documents. The highlights of these invaluable holdings include manuscripts and biographical materials on Jewish writers and scholars, the historic Strashun Library, the papers of the historian Simon Dubnow, The Esther Rokhl Kaminska Theatre Museum collections, manuscripts of musical works for the Yiddish theatre and a whole spectrum of documents on Jewish life in Lithuania, Poland, Russia and elsewhere. This seven-year project will virtually reunite YIVO’s pre-war collections in a dedicated portal.

Teachers' summer camp photo
Puszkarnia, 1922. A group of students, examine a specimen under the only microscope at the summer camp of the Vilna Jewish Teachers' Seminary. Photograph by D. G. Aliber.
Editor: Lena Stanley-Clamp, European Association for Jewish Culture, London
with contributions from the AthenaPlus project; Center for Jewish-Moroccan Culture, Brussels; Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw;
JDC Archives, New York; YIVO Institute, NY; Leo Baeck Institute, NY. | Contact us | Subscribe to Judaica Europeana Newsletter
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