Guide to the Records of the VILBIG (Vilna Jewish Education Society), RG 11

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
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

© 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.

Collection Overview

Title: Guide to the Records of the VILBIG (Vilna Jewish Education Society), RG 11

Predominant Dates:1924-1940

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

Languages: Yiddish, Polish


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."

Scope and Contents of the Materials

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).

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.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions:

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:

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:

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.

Box and Folder Listing

Series I: Administration
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.
Folders: 10
Quantity: Folders
Folder 1: By-laws. Drafts and printed brochures
Folder 2: Minutes and reports: founding committee, 1924; general meetings; executive committee, sections, 1924-1937
Folder 3: Local branches: receipts of registration with the local authorities
Folder 4: Monthly log of activities
Folder 5: Elections of officers: minutes and ballot records
Folder 6: Membership register
Folder 7: Membership applications
Folder 8: Finances: periodic financial reports
Folder 9: Finances: miscellaneous bills
1927-1932, 1939
Folder 10: Fund-raising campaigns
Series II: Correspondence, General
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.
Quantity: folders
Folders: 17
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically
Folder 11: Correspondence
Folder 12: Correspondence
Folder 13: Correspondence
Folder 14: Correspondence
Folder 15: Correspondence
Folder 16: Correspondence
Folder 17: Correspondence
Folder 18: Correspondence
Folder 19: Correspondence
Folder 20: Correspondence
Folder 21: Correspondence
Folder 22: Correspondence
Folder 23: Correspondence
Folder 24: Correspondence
Folder 25: Correspondence
Folder 26: Correspondence
Folder 27: Correspondence
Series III: Correspondence, Local Branches
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.
Quantity: folders
Folders: 17
Folder 28: All branches: circular letter
1925-1931, 1936
Folder 29: Ignalino
(now Ignalina, Lithuania)
Folder 30: Oszmiana
(now Ashmi︠a︡ny, Belarus)
Folder 31: Glebokie
Folder 32: Dzisna
Folder 33: Dunilowicze
Folder 34: Druja
(now Druja, Belarus)
Folder 35: Hoduciszki
(now in Poland)
Folder 36: Widze
(now Vidzy, Belarus)
Folder 37: Jaszun
Folder 38: Landwarów
(now Lentvaris, Lithuania)
Folder 39: Nowo-Wilejka
(now Naujoji, Lithuania)
Folder 40: Nowy Pohost
Folder 41: Swir
(now Svir', Belarus)
Folder 42: Swieciany
Folder 43: Podbrodzie
(now Pabrade, Lithuania)
Folder 44: Krewo
Folder 45: Radun
(now in Belarus): scrapbook of correspondence and press clippings on the burning of the VILBIG library in Radun by the local yeshiva students
Series IV: VILBIG Educational Courses Section
1927-1936,, 1939-1940
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.
Folders: 9
Folder 46: Course programs and schedules
Folder 47: Student applications
Personal documents and photographs included
Folder 48: Student applications
Personal documents and photographs included
Folder 49: Student applications
Folder 50: Student applications
Folder 51: Student lists
1932-1936, 1939
Folder 52: Student lists
1932-1936, 1939
Folder 53: Student lists
Folder 54: Certificates of completion of the Lithuanian language course
Series V: VILBIG Various Sections
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).
Quantity: folders
Folders: 7
Folder 55: VILBIG chorus: ticket sales reports; lists of chorus members; records of performances; correspondence
Folder 56: VILBIG chorus: membership applications
Folder 57: Mandolin orchestra
Folder 58: Excursions section
Folder 59: "Saturday Mornings" program
Folder 60: VILBIG programs for the Jewish schools (Central Education Committee Schools) in Vilna
Folder 61: Seminary for Kindergarten Teachers: correspondence re licensing; by-laws
Series VI: Scout Club "Bin" (The Bee)
Records of the children organization which was active at VILBIG from 1929 to 1935.
Quantity: folders
Folders: 4
Folder 62: Correspondence with various Polish authorities, 1929-1934, including by-laws
Folder 63: Newsletters, circular letters, instructions
Folder 64: Financial documents: cash book, fund-raising reports, bills
Folder 65: Applications for admission
Series VII: Varia
Includes VILBIG printed matter.
Quantity: folders
Folders: 2
Folder 66: Printed matter, including weekly calendars of VILBIG events, 1925, leaflets; press clippings
Folder 67: Miscellaneous and unidentified items
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