Guide to the Records of VILBIG (Vilner Yidishe Bildung Gezelshaft/Vilna Jewish Educational Society), Vilna
1924-1940

RG 11

Processed by Isaiah Trunk

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, NY 10011

Phone: (212) 246-6080

Fax: (212) 292-1892

Email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

URL: http://www.yivoinstitute.org

© 2006 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia and Yakov Sklyar in September 2006. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: VILBIG (Vilner Yidishe Bildung Gezelshaft/Vilna Jewish Education Society)
Title: Records of the VILBIG (Vilner Yidishe Bildung Gezelshaft/Vilna Jewish Education Society)
Dates:1924-1940
Abstract: VILBIG was organized in Vilna, Poland, in September 1924 to promote secular education among the Yiddish-speaking population. The collection holds the records of the VILBIG administration and of its educational programs. Included here are minutes of committee meetings, records of elections, financial reports, and documents about legalizing VILBIG and its provincial branches. Other documents found in this collection are correspondence with Jewish educational and cultural institutions in Poland, the Vilna Kehillah, and various government and municiipal agencies. In addition, there is also correspondence with 17 local branches of VILBIG, mainly in the province of Vilna, and materials relating to educational courses, various artistic groups, and the scout club "Bin."
Languages: Yiddish with some Polish.
Quantity: 2.1 linear feet (67 folders).
Record Group Number: RG 11
Repository: YIVO Archives
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Historical Note

VILBIG is an acronym for Vilner Yidisher Bildung Gezelshaft (Vilna Jewish Education Society). VILBIG was organized in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in September 1924 by a group of Jewish educators and communal leaders concerned with the state of secular education for the Yiddish speaking population in pre-war Poland. Its statutory goal was to stimulate general education and vocational training among the Jewish population of Vilna Province (Polish part of Lithuania until September 17, 1939), and to enrich the cultural life of the Jewish masses. To achieve those aims, the VILBIG intended to: 1) organize kindergartens, elementary and high schools, evening schools, teachers courses, libraries and other educational institutions; 2) publish school books and periodicals; 3) organize lectures; 4) organize conferences on Jewish and general educational themes (see by-laws, folder 1) Among the founders of the society were well known leaders of the Jewish community of Vilna: Zemach Shabad, Hertz Kowarski, E. Smilg and others. Meir Bernstein was the executive secretary. Max Weinreich was in charge of educational programs.

VILBIG based most of its activities on voluntary involvement of its membership. The main sources of the society's income were membership dues, fund raising campaigns and sale of tickets to various VILBIG events. It received few outside subsidies. It has an average annual budget of about 22,000 zlotys (about $5,500, pre-1939 value).

The scarcity of funds significantly curtailed VILBIG's educational program, especially with regard to organizing tuition-free or low-tuition secondary schools. Although attempts to open a school were made several times, none succeeded. In 1931 a seminary for kindergarten teachers was organized but it lasted for only 2 years. The society therefore concentrated on other forms of educational and cultural activities such as courses, lectures, performing arts, excursions etc. Between 1925 and 1935 the VILBIG offered annually a variety of educational evening courses. From 1925 to 1929 it organized so called "Saturday Mornings" for the general public. It maintained a "Children's Auditorium" and in 1927 it organized a Scout Club "Bin" (The Bee). It had a mandolin orchestra and a choir. The VILBIG choir under the direction of the composer Abraham Slep was well known not only locally but also throughout Poland.

VILBIG was active not only in Vilna but also in Vilna Province. At the peak of its popularity, in 1929, it had 20 branches in the provincial towns. By 1936, though, the branches had either closed down or changed their organizational affiliation. After the Soviet invasion of Vilna, the VILBIG continued its work for a while. It changed its name to "Bildungs Gezelshaft-Shtern" (Star Education Society), and it offered language courses in Russian and Lithuanian (as Polish was annulled as an official language). The society ceased to exist when the Nazis occupied Vilna in June 1941.

In the much fragmented picture of Jewish educational organizations and school systems in the pre-war Poland, VILBIG sided with the secular Yiddish groups represented by the TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye -- Central Yiddish School Organization), and locally in Vilna by the TSBK (Tsentraler Bildung Komitet -- Central Education Committee) and its political leanings were towards the Jewish socialist movements: Bund and Poalei Zion. VILBIG stood for better and continuing education for those who could not afford it. Although it did not create schools, it nevertheless succeeded in becoming an important cultural center for several generations of Jewish youth. More importantly, its style and methods were copied by similar societies in other cities in Poland. Therefore the history of VILBIG is an important case study in the general history of Jewish education and Yiddish culture in Poland.

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Scope and Content Note

The record group appears to be incomplete and gaps are visible in all series. Administrative and financial records prevail, while programmatic and educational materials are very scarce. Thus there are no curricula, handbooks, texts of lectures, student papers, etc. in the files of the Educational courses (folder 46 to 54), Saturday Mornings program (folder 59) or Kindergarten Teachers Seminary ( folder 61). The abundance of administrative materials allows for a good picture of the Society -- how it was run, what problems it encountered in its contacts with the government authorities, how the political conflicts (so typical for Jewish cultural organizations in Poland) affected the activities of the Society, etc. Especially important in this respect are Minutes and Reports ( folder 2) and Financial Matters ( folder 8).

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Arrangement

The collection is arranged in seven series:

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Access and Use

Open to researchers.

For more information, contact:
Chief Archivist
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

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Other Finding Aids

There is an original Yiddish-language finding aid.

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Custodial History

We have no written documentation on the history of the VILBIG records. They were probably donated to the YIVO in Vilna sometime before 1941. 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.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should read as follows:

Identification of item, date (if known); YIVO Archives; Vilna Yiddish Education Society (Vilner Yidishe Bildung Gezelshaft - VILBIG); RG 11; folder number.

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Processing Information

We have no documents on the accessioning and possible arrangement of the VILBIG records at YIVO in Vilna. Neither is there any documentation on their subsequent transfer to Germany. In New York, the records were sorted at one time (probably in the 1950s) but no information was left regarding this initial stage of processing. The present physical order of the records was imposed by the processing archivist and reflects the organizational structure of the VILBIG: the records of the VILBIG administration are followed by the records of various VILBIG sections.

The records were processed by Dr. Isaiah Trunk in 1979, with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The inventory was originally written in Yiddish. The English version was compiled by Marek Web in February 1981.

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Container list

 

Series I: Administration, 1924-1940

10 folders
Scope and Content:

These are vital organizational records of VILBIG and they include minutes of meetings of all elected bodies, records of elections of VILBIG officers, documents about legalizing VILBIG and its branches and financial reports.

Folder TitleDate
1By-laws. Drafts and printed brochures1924
Folder TitleDate
2Minutes and reports: founding committee, 1924; general meetings; executive committee, sections, 1924-19371924-1937
Folder TitleDate
3Local branches: receipts of registration with the local authorities1924-1927
Folder TitleDate
4Monthly log of activities1933-1938
Folder TitleDate
5Elections of officers: minutes and ballot records1924-1939
Folder TitleDate
6Membership register1936-1938
Folder TitleDate
7Membership applications1924-1940
Folder TitleDate
8Finances: periodic financial reports1926-1939
Folder TitleDate
9Finances: miscellaneous bills1927-1932, 1939
Folder TitleDate
10Fund-raising campaigns1930s
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Series II: Correspondence, General, 1924-1940

17 folders
Arrangement:

Arranged chronologically

Scope and Content:

The correspondence is mainly of administrative character and the majority of correspondents are Jewish educational and cultural organizations in Poland, the Jewish Community Board of Vilna (Kehillah) and various government and Vilna municipal agencies. Correspondence with the Central Education Committee (TSBK) and YIVO is included.

Folder TitleDate
11Correspondence1924
Folder TitleDate
12Correspondence1925
Folder TitleDate
13Correspondence1926
Folder TitleDate
14Correspondence1927
Folder TitleDate
15Correspondence1928
Folder TitleDate
16Correspondence1929
Folder TitleDate
17Correspondence1930
Folder TitleDate
18Correspondence1931
Folder TitleDate
19Correspondence1933
Folder TitleDate
20Correspondence1934
Folder TitleDate
21Correspondence1935
Folder TitleDate
22Correspondence1936
Folder TitleDate
23Correspondence1937
Folder TitleDate
24Correspondence1938
Folder TitleDate
25Correspondence1939
Folder TitleDate
26Correspondence1940
Folder TitleDate
27Correspondenceundated
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Series III: Correspondence, Local Branches, 1924-1936

17 folders
Scope and Content:

There were some 20 branches of VILBIG operating in the towns of Vilna Province. The record group contains correspondence files of 17 branches. The files are arranged by the name of the town and cover of the years 1924-1936. By 1936 most of the branches ceased to exist.

Folder TitleDate
28All branches: circular letter1925-1931, 1936
Folder TitleDate
29Ignalino 1924-1927
  

(now Ignalina, Lithuania)

 
Folder TitleDate
30Oszmiana 1924-1936
  

(now Ashmi︠a︡ny, Belarus)

 
Folder TitleDate
31Glebokie1924-1936
Folder TitleDate
32Dzisna1925-1929
Folder TitleDate
33Dunilowicze1924-1927
Folder TitleDate
34Druja 1924-1925
  

(now Druja, Belarus)

 
Folder TitleDate
35Hoduciszki 1924-1927
  

(now in Poland)

 
Folder TitleDate
36Widze 1925-1932
  

(now Vidzy, Belarus)

 
Folder TitleDate
37Jaszun1926-1936
Folder TitleDate
38Landwarów 1926
  

(now Lentvaris, Lithuania)

 
Folder TitleDate
39Nowo-Wilejka 1929-1934
  

(now Naujoji, Lithuania)

 
Folder TitleDate
40Nowy Pohost1925-1927
Folder TitleDate
41Swir 1927-1929
  

(now Svir', Belarus)

 
Folder TitleDate
42Swieciany1924-1936
Folder TitleDate
43Podbrodzie 1924-1925
  

(now Pabrade, Lithuania)

 
Folder TitleDate
44Krewo1924-1929
Folder TitleDate
45Radun 1926-1927
  

(now in Belarus): scrapbook of correspondence and press clippings on the burning of the VILBIG library in Radun by the local yeshiva students

 
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Series IV: VILBIG Educational Courses Section, 1927-1936, , 1939-1940

9 folders
Scope and Content:

Only the first folder (46) contains material about the course curricula. The other folders contain student applications, lists of course participants and some financial data. Folders 53 and 54 evidence the organizational change in VILBIG, after September 1939: it adapted the name "Shtern" (The Star) and it offered mainly language courses in Russian and Lithuanian.

Folder TitleDate
46Course programs and schedules1927-1932
Folder TitleDate
47Student applications1929-1930
  

Personal documents and photographs included

 
Folder TitleDate
48Student applications1929-1930
  

Personal documents and photographs included

 
Folder TitleDate
49Student applications1936
Folder TitleDate
50Student applications1936
Folder TitleDate
51Student lists1932-1936, 1939
Folder TitleDate
52Student lists1932-1936, 1939
Folder TitleDate
53Student lists1940
Folder TitleDate
54Certificates of completion of the Lithuanian language course1940
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Series V: VILBIG Various Sections, 1925-1939

7 folders
Scope and Content:

Correspondence, membership records, publicity materials, financial records pertaining to the chorus, the mandolin orchestra and other VILBIG entertainment programs. Also a folder of correspondence and legal documents of the Kindergarten Teachers Seminary (61).

Folder TitleDate
55VILBIG chorus: ticket sales reports; lists of chorus members; records of performances; correspondence1926-1936
Folder TitleDate
56VILBIG chorus: membership applications1926-1929
Folder TitleDate
57Mandolin orchestra1935-1939
Folder TitleDate
58Excursions section1926-1939
Folder TitleDate
59"Saturday Mornings" program1925-1927
Folder TitleDate
60VILBIG programs for the Jewish schools (Central Education Committee Schools) in Vilna1926-1929
Folder TitleDate
61Seminary for Kindergarten Teachers: correspondence re licensing; by-laws1931-1933
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Series VI: Scout Club "Bin" (The Bee), 1927-1935

4 folders
Scope and Content:

Records of the children organization which was active at VILBIG from 1929 to 1935.

Folder TitleDate
62Correspondence with various Polish authorities, 1929-1934, including by-laws 1929-1934
Folder TitleDate
63Newsletters, circular letters, instructions1927-1935
Folder TitleDate
64Financial documents: cash book, fund-raising reports, bills1931-1933
Folder TitleDate
65Applications for admission1935
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Series VII: Varia, 1924-1932

2 folders
Scope and Content:

Includes VILBIG printed matter.

Folder TitleDate
66Printed matter, including weekly calendars of VILBIG events, 1925, leaflets; press clippings 1924-1932
Folder TitleDate
67Miscellaneous and unidentified items1925-1932
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