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

RG 11

Processed by Isaiah Trunk and Marek Web with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1979-1981. Additional processing thanks to a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Prepared for digitization by Jessica Podhorcer and YIVO staff and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, with additional funding from the Kronhill Pletka Foundation and The Ruth and David Levine Charitable Fund, 2015.

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.

This collection is currently closed in preparation for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project.

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 Bildungs Gezelshaft/Vilna Jewish Education Society)
Title: Records of the VILBIG (Vilner Yidishe Bildungs 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 municipal 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 and Lithuanian.
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 Bildungs 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 had 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. The order of the records reflects the organizational structure of the VILBIG: the records of the VILBIG administration are followed by the records of various VILBIG sections.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

This collection is currently closed in preparation for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project.

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:
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. The English version was compiled by Marek Web in February 1981.

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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 Bildungs Gezelshaft - VILBIG); RG 11; folder number.

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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 brochures1917,1924
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Folder TitleDate
2 Minutes and reports: founding committee, 1924; general meetings; executive committee, sections, 1924-1937 1924-1939
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Folder TitleDate
3 Local branches: receipts of registration with the local authorities 1924-1927
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Folder TitleDate
4Monthly log of activities1933-1938
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Folder TitleDate
5Elections of officers: minutes and ballot records1924-1939
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Folder TitleDate
6Membership register1936-1938
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Folder TitleDate
7Membership applications1924-1940
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Folder TitleDate
8Finances: periodic financial reports1926-1939
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Folder TitleDate
9Finances: miscellaneous bills1927-1939
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Folder TitleDate
10Fund-raising campaigns1926-1935
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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
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Folder TitleDate
12Correspondence1925
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Folder TitleDate
13Correspondence1926
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Folder TitleDate
14Correspondence1927
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Folder TitleDate
15Correspondence1928
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Folder TitleDate
16Correspondence1929
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Folder TitleDate
17Correspondence1930
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Folder TitleDate
18Correspondence1931
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Folder TitleDate
19Correspondence1932-1933
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Folder TitleDate
20Correspondence1934
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Folder TitleDate
21Correspondence1935
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Folder TitleDate
22Correspondence1936
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Folder TitleDate
23Correspondence1937
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Folder TitleDate
24Correspondence1938
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Folder TitleDate
25Correspondence1939
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Folder TitleDate
26Correspondence1940
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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 and membership applications 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
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Folder TitleDate
29Ignalino1924-1927
  

(now Ignalina, Lithuania)

 
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Folder TitleDate
30Oszmiana1924-1936
  

(now Ashmi?a?ny, Belarus)

 
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Folder TitleDate
31Glebokie1924-1936
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Folder TitleDate
32Dzisna1925-1929
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Folder TitleDate
33Dunilowicze1924-1927
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Folder TitleDate
34Druja1924-1928
  

(now Druja, Belarus)

 
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Folder TitleDate
35Hoduciszki1924-1927
  

(now in Poland)

 
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Folder TitleDate
36Widze1925-1932
  

(now Vidzy, Belarus)

 
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Folder TitleDate
37Jaszun1926-1936
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Folder TitleDate
38Landwaro´w1926
  

(now Lentvaris, Lithuania)

 
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Folder TitleDate
39Nowo-Wilejka1923-1934
  

(now Naujoji, Lithuania)

 
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Folder TitleDate
40Nowy Pohost1925-1933
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Folder TitleDate
41Swir1924-1929
  

(now Svir', Belarus)

 
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Folder TitleDate
42Swieciany1924-1936
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Folder TitleDate
43Podbrodzie1924-1925
  

(now Pabrade, Lithuania)

 
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Folder TitleDate
44Krewo1924-1929
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Folder TitleDate
45Radun1926-1927
  

(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 schedules; report on Esperanto1926-1932
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Folder TitleDate
47Student applications1929-1930
  

Personal documents and photographs included

 
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Folder TitleDate
48Student applications1929-1930
  

Personal documents and photographs included

 
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Folder TitleDate
49Student applications1936
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Folder TitleDate
50Student applications1936
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Folder TitleDate
51Student lists1932-1936, 1939
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Folder TitleDate
52Student lists1932-1936, 1939
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Folder TitleDate
53Student lists1940
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Folder TitleDate
54 Certificates of completion of the Lithuanian language course 1940
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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
55 VILBIG chorus: ticket sales reports; lists of chorus members; records of performances; correspondence 1926-1939
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Folder TitleDate
56VILBIG chorus: membership applications1926-1929
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Folder TitleDate
57Mandolin orchestra1935-1939
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Folder TitleDate
58Excursions section1926-1939
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Folder TitleDate
59"Saturday Mornings" program1925-1927
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Folder TitleDate
60 VILBIG programs for the Jewish schools (Central Education Committee Schools) in Vilna, publication records for Grininke Beymelekh, report on schools 1926-1929
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Folder TitleDate
61 Seminary for Kindergarten Teachers: correspondence re licensing; by-laws 1931-1933
  View the folder 
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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
62 Correspondence with various Polish authorities, 1929-1934, including by-laws 1929-1934
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Folder TitleDate
63 Newsletters, songbook, circular letters, instructions 1927-1935
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Folder TitleDate
64 Financial documents: cash book, fund-raising reports, bills 1931-1933
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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
66 Printed matter, including weekly calendars of VILBIG events, 1925, leaflets, press clippings 1924-1932
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Folder TitleDate
67 Miscellaneous items, including circulars, rule books, receipts and stamps 1925-1932
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