Processed by Isaiah Trunk and Marek Web with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, 1979-1981. Additionally processed and prepared for digitization by Jessica Podhorcer in 2015.
Processing, conservation, preparation for digitization and digitization of this collection was done as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, with the assistance of grants from the Edward Blank Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the Conference for Jewish Material Claims against Germany, the Kronhill Pletka Foundation and the Ruth and David Levine Charitable Fund, and anonymous supporters.
Note to researchers: This collection is currently closed in preparation for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project.YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
© 2006 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved
Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia and Yakov Sklyar in September 2006. EAD finding aid in ARCHON was customized in 2012. Description is in English.
Title: Guide to the Records of the VILBIG (Vilna Jewish Education Society), RG 11
ID: RG 11 FA
Extent: 2.1 Linear Feet
The collection is arranged in seven series.
Series I: Administration, 1924-1940, Series II: Correspondence, General, 1924-1940, Series III: Correspondence, Local Branches, 1924-1936, Series IV: VILBIG Educational Courses Section, 1927-1936,, 1939-1940, Series V: VILBIG Various Sections, 1925-1939, Series VI: Scout Club "Bin" (The Bee), 1927-1935, Series VII: Varia, 1924-1932
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."
Note to researchers: This collection is currently closed in preparation for the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project.
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).
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.
Note to researchers: This collection is currently closed in preparation for the YIVO Vilna Collections Project.
For more information, contact: Chief Archivist, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Use Restrictions: For permission to publish part or parts of the collection or to cite verbatim from the text of a document must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact: Chief Archivist, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011. Email: email@example.com
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.