Guide to the Records of Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary, Vilna
1920-1940

RG 23

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 November 2006. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary
Title: Records of the Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary
Dates:1921-1940
Abstract: The Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary was founded in 1921. The school was part of a network of educational institutions established by the Tarbut movement in Poland. Teachers' seminaries were created to train Tarbut teachers for the Hebrew elementary school system. The collection contains records of the seminary in Vilna, Poland. It holds administrative records as well as correspondence. Correspondence is with the Tarbut Central Office in Warsaw, the Vilna School District, the Keren Kayemet L'Israel, the Vilna Jewish Community Council, branches of Tarbut throughout Poland, organizations, bookstores, and publishers. Other documents included in the collection are by-laws, financial documents, contracts, statistical materials, and printed and mimeographed materials. Academic records are also found in this collection. These types of records include correspondence with students and teachers, applications for admission to the seminary, teachers' files, student grades, and diplomas. There are also minutes of the Pedagogical Council, curriculum outlines for various subjects, teaching schedules, and lessons prepared by student teachers.
Languages: Yiddish, Polish.
Quantity: 4.3 linear feet (80 folders).
Record Group Number: RG 23
Repository: YIVO Archives
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Historical Note

The Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary was registered with the Vilna School District as Habrajskie Koedukacyjne Seminar Nauczycielskie 'Tarbuth' w Wilnie. It was founded in 1921 by the Vilna branch of the Histadrut Ivri L'khinukh U'tarbut b'polaniya (Organization for Hebrew Education and Culture in Poland, henceforth known as the 'Tarbut') and was part of a network of educational institutions established by the Tarbut primarily to promote the Zionist objective of preparing Jewish youth for settlement in Palestine.

The Tarbut curriculum included both spiritual and practical elements of this preparation. Biblical and Talmudic literature as well as Jewish cultural tradition were to serve not as a guide for practical observance but as a source of moral and intellectual inspiration for the modern Hebrew pioneer. Hebrew was to replace Yiddish as the daily Jewish language. Courses in agriculture and natural sciences were introduced to teach the student to deal with practical problems in Palestine.

As the Ministry of Education required incorporation of the regular Polish elementary and secondary curricula, the Tarbut program, therefore, was a synthesis of the Polish school system and the curriculum followed by Zionist schools in Palestine. All subjects were taught in Hebrew, with the exception of Polish language and literature, history and geography. The Tarbut organization was legalized in March 1922 and expanded steadily until the outbreak of World War II. In 1918 there were 51 schools, 2575 students. In 1927-1928, 234 schools, 24,099 students. In 1933-1934, 269 schools, 37,000 students.

The network included elementary and secondary schools, kindergartens, teachers' seminaries, an agricultural school, evening schools and summer camps.

Despite their expansion, the Tarbut schools faced several problems. They had no financial base and depended for their survival upon school fees and contributions from private individuals and Zionist organizations. Funds from the AJDC in the U.S. lasted until the early 1930s when the depression put an end to all support. A constant shortage of teaching supplies and school equipment was a direct result of the financial problems. Second, there was a lack of qualified teachers committed to the ideals of the Tarbut. Third, the Tarbut secondary courses were not accredited as preparation for university; this lack of recognition from the government was symptomatic of the generally unfavorable position of minority schools in Poland.

The Tarbut teachers' seminaries were created to train teachers for the Hebrew elementary school system. Seminaries were established in Vilna, Grodno, for elementary school and in Warsaw and Lwów (now called L'viv, in present-day Ukraine) for kindergarten training. Later on, kindergarten training was also given at the Vilna seminary. In 1925-1926 there were 3 seminaries in Poland and by 1931-1932 there were 6. The seminary in Vilna was the first one founded. Its history reflects the development of the entire Tarbut system. This applies to the general ideological objectives, the curriculum, financial conditions and relationship between the school and the Vilna state educational authorities.

The seminary's annual budget ranged from about 70,000 zloty to 116,000 zloty (about $17,500 to $29,000). The school structure included a director, teachers, a pedagogical council, a student council and a staff doctor. There was a library as well as a dormitory provided by the Tarbut branch in Vilna.

Applicants to the seminary were required to have completed elementary schooling. The 5 year program included bible, Talmud, Hebrew language and literature, Polish, mathematics, natural sciences, psychology, pedagogy, methodology of teaching, logic, hygiene, music and gymnastics. In 1932 educational reforms were enacted in Poland, affecting all Tarbut schools. The seminary's 5 year program was now replaced by the 3 year pedagogical lyceum to which only gymnasium graduates were accepted. A lyceum for kindergarten training was established.

Although figures on graduates are few, from 1931-1934 a total of 155 students 1 graduated from the seminaries of Vilna and Grodno. Miriam Eisenstein, in Jewish Schools in Poland, 1919-1939, claims that all teacher training institutions were closed by the state in 1936. The Tarbut records in the YIVO Archives, however, indicate that the Vilna seminary existed at least until 1940.

Footnotes

1. Chaim Shloyme Kazdan, Di geshikhte fun yidishn shulvezn in umophengikn Poiln, (History of Jewish School Systems in Independent Poland) Mexico, 1947, p. 434.

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Scope and Content Note

The records of the Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary reflect both administrative and educational activities from its foundation in 1921 to circa 1940. They consist of correspondence, certificates, diplomas, reports, minutes, by-laws, contracts, invoices, promissory notes, receipts, statistical tables, questionnaires, application forms, manuscripts, lists, student grades, payroll lists, card files, curricula, syllabi, schedules and a mechanical drawing.

General Administrative Records reflect those activities necessary to administer any institutional office and include financial and legal matters, whereas Academic Records reflect activities particular to a school. General Administrative Records contain comprehensive correspondence files. Miscellaneous administrative records are scanty. There are no bookkeeping records; financial documents reveal budgetary information for only some years. Academic Records contain a fairly complete file of correspondence with students. Correspondence with teachers is not complete. Student Achievement Records are fragmentary with accumulative recorded grades for only 1926-1928. Minutes of the Pedagogical Council are incomplete, mainly of 1933. Curriculum records contain entrance requirements, syllabi and schedules of classes but with gaps. Student Teaching Records contain evaluations for only the early 1920s.

While all areas of the administration are represented, there are no complete series except for some correspondence files. This narrows down research possibilities for the fragmentary portions, but does not rule them out. For instance, Student Achievement Records for 1926-1928 are cohesive and fairly complete and provide a valuable sample. The by-laws of the seminary, 1926-1937, consist of only a few documents but provide indispensable background information about the original structure and purpose of the seminary. The staff records consist of only a few sheets but in fact throw light on the background of teachers hired over a period of ten years. Course outlines are available for only some subjects but these are thorough. Student teaching evaluations, although available only for the early 1920s, reveal the pedagogical theories of the Student Teaching Department.

Where there are no records at all, such as in the case of the accounting books, information on the general financial situation is evident in the general office correspondence, in letters relating to funding, in student correspondence relating to tuition reduction. In fact, in the case of other topics as well, the rich correspondence files compensate for the scanty administrative records and provide documentary evidence of facts which might otherwise be expected to be substantiated by accounts or other records. Some research topics for which the collection is a source: Tarbut movement; teaching conditions in Poland, 1920s-1930s; school and state in Poland; methodology of teaching Hebrew subjects.

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Arrangement

The records were originally deposited in the YIVO Institute in Vilna but little is known about their original state. In addition, little information is available on attempts at arrangement immediately after their arrival in New York in 1947. However, a rudimentary sorting process took place. The records were divided into folders with folder descriptions and stored in 9 acid-free 5" boxes.

In 1979 when arrangement was begun, the records were incomplete and not in original order. An initial survey revealed two different existing arrangements. Some files seemed to be in their original state, as kept in the seminary office, i.e., the correspondence with the Tarbut Central Office, in Warsaw. Other files had been artificially created, either perhaps by the YIVO staff in Vilna or during the 1950s. These two types of files posed problems because they overlapped. For example, the General Office Correspondence, Correspondence with Students, and Correspondence with Teachers all contained letters from graduate students requesting their diplomas. In numerous instances materials in the folders did not fit the folder descriptions. A thorough sorting and item-by-item reading of the material was undertaken.

The principle followed in arrangement was, recreation, as much as possible, of original files based on activity or function. The series divisions were determined by a logical analysis of administrative activities rather than on any actual knowledge of the original files. The collection was divided into General Administrative Records (Series I and II) and Academic Records (Series III-VI).

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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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Custodial History

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; Records of the Tarbut Hebrew Teachers Seminary; RG 23; folder number.

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Processing Information

The records were processed by Dr. Isaiah Trunk in 1979 with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The original inventory is in Yiddish. The English version was written by Fruma Mohrer in 1981.

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Bibliography

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Container list

 

Series I: Correspondence,  1920-1940

28 folders.
Arrangement:

Chronological.

There are 3 subseries located here:

Scope and Content:

Contains three files of correspondence: Tarbut Central Office, Warsaw, 1922-1939Vilna School District, 1924-1939General Office Correspondence, 1920-1940; ; , which includes Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, Vilna Jewish Community Council, branches of Tarbut throughout Poland and other Jewish organizations, as well as commercial establishments such as bookstores and publishers.

Subseries 1: Tarbut Central Office, Warsaw, 1922-1939

Folder TitleDate
1 Correspondence 1922
Folder TitleDate
2Correspondence 1923
Folder TitleDate
3Correspondence 1924-1928
Folder TitleDate
4Correspondence 1930
Folder TitleDate
5Correspondence 1931
Folder TitleDate
6Correspondence 1932
Folder TitleDate
7Correspondence 1933
Folder TitleDate
8Correspondence 1934
Folder TitleDate
9Correspondence 1935
Folder TitleDate
10Correspondence 1936
Folder TitleDate
11Correspondence 1937
Folder TitleDate
12Correspondenceundated, 1938-1939

Subseries 2 :Vilna School District, 1924-1939

Folder TitleDate
13Correspondence 1924-1936
Folder TitleDate
14Correspondence 1937-1938
Folder TitleDate
15Correspondenceundated, 1939
Folder TitleDate
16Teachers' Evening Program1937

Subseries 3: General Office Correspondence, 1920-1940

Folder TitleDate
17Correspondence 1920-1924
Folder TitleDate
18Correspondence 1925-1929
Folder TitleDate
19Correspondence 1930
Folder TitleDate
20Correspondence 1931
Folder TitleDate
21Correspondence 1932-1933
Folder TitleDate
22Correspondence 1934
Folder TitleDate
23Correspondence 1935-1936
Folder TitleDate
24Correspondence 1937
Folder TitleDate
25Correspondence 1938
Folder TitleDate
26Correspondence 1939
Folder TitleDate
27Correspondence 1940
Folder TitleDate
28Correspondence undated
Folder TitleDate
29Correspondence log1924-1925
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Series II: Miscellaneous Administrative Records,  1924-1939

7 folders.
Scope and Content:

Includes by-laws, financial documents, contracts, statistical materials, printed and mimeographed materials.

Folder TitleDate
30By-laws of the seminary, 1926-1937; minutes, Budget Council1926-1937
Folder TitleDate
31Miscellaneous financial documents1930-1939
Folder TitleDate
32Teacher Payroll Lists1924-1925
Folder TitleDate
33Card file, tuition accountsundated, 1935-1937
Folder TitleDate
34Contracts1926-1939
Folder TitleDate
35Statistical materials; inventories of school equipment; mechanical drawing of school buildingundated, 1932-1933
Folder TitleDate
36Printed and mimeographed materials: invitations, diploma forms, ticketsundated
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Series III: Correspondence with Students and Teachers,  1922-1940

29 folders.
Arrangement:

Chronological.

Scope and Content:

Contains files of correspondence: Correspondence with students and teachers, 1923-1940; letters requesting tuition reductions, 1937-1940; applications for entry to the seminary, 1922-1935.

Folder TitleDate
37Correspondence with students and teachers1923
Folder TitleDate
38Correspondence with students and teachers1924
Folder TitleDate
39Correspondence with students and teachers1925
Folder TitleDate
40Correspondence with students and teachers1926
Folder TitleDate
41Correspondence with students and teachers1927
Folder TitleDate
42Correspondence with students and teachers1928
Folder TitleDate
43Correspondence with students and teachers1929
Folder TitleDate
44Correspondence with students and teachers1930
Folder TitleDate
45Correspondence with students and teachers1931
Folder TitleDate
46Correspondence with students and teachers1932
Folder TitleDate
47Correspondence with students and teachers1933
Folder TitleDate
48Correspondence with students and teachers1934
Folder TitleDate
49Correspondence with students and teachers1935
Folder TitleDate
50Correspondence with students and teachers1936
Folder TitleDate
51Correspondence with students and teachers1937
Folder TitleDate
52Correspondence with students and teachers1938
Folder TitleDate
53Correspondence with students and teachers1939
Folder TitleDate
54Correspondence with students and teachers1940
Folder TitleDate
55Correspondence with students and teachersundated
Folder TitleDate
56Requests for tuition reductions1937-1940
Folder TitleDate
57Requests for tuition reductions1938-1939
Folder TitleDate
58Requests for tuition reductions1939-1940
Folder TitleDate
59Application files1922-1929
Folder TitleDate
60Application files1930-1935
Folder TitleDate
61Applications, fragmentsundated, 1925-1926
Folder TitleDate
62Applications, fragmentsundated
Folder TitleDate
63Applications, fragmentsundated
Folder TitleDate
64Applications, fragmentsundated
Folder TitleDate
65Applications, fragments, autobiographiesundated
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Series IV: Student Achievement Records and Staff Records,  1926-1939

8 folders.
Arrangement:

Chronological.

Scope and Content:

Contains student grades for 1926-1928 graduation diplomas, 1924-1925, 1934-1936; staff records, 1926-1936; minutes, Pedagogical Council, 1930s, Student council.

Folder TitleDate
66Student grades1926-1927
Folder TitleDate
67Student grades1927-1928
Folder TitleDate
68Student grades, numerical grades1927-1928
Folder TitleDate
69Lists of students: roll call, statistical charts, grades1931-1939
Folder TitleDate
70Graduation diplomas1924-1925
Folder TitleDate
71Graduation diplomas1934-1936
Folder TitleDate
72Staff records1926-1936
Folder TitleDate
73Pedagogical Council, minutes; Student Council, minutes 1930s
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Series V: Curriculum, Schedules, Schoolwork,  1922-1939

6 folders.
Scope and Content:

Contains curriculum outlines for various subjects; teaching schedules, lessons prepared by student teachers; miscellaneous schoolwork.

Folder TitleDate
74Curriculum: entrance requirements, syllabi, schedules, course announcements1922-1936
Folder TitleDate
75Materials for Hebrew penmanship classesundated
Folder TitleDate
76Lessons by student teachers and evaluations1922
Folder TitleDate
77Miscellaneous school work: notes, exams, essays, by students and teachersundated
Folder TitleDate
78Miscellaneous school work: notes, exams, essays, by students and teachersundated
Folder TitleDate
79Excursions, correspondence1931-1939
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Series VI: Miscellaneous, undated

1 folder.
Folder TitleDate
80Miscellaneous materialsundated
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