YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Contact: Roberta Newman, Director of Digital Initiatives
NEW YORK, N.Y. The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is delighted to announce the launch of the YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland, at polishjews.yivoarchives.org. The website provides access to thousands of digitized documents, manuscripts, photographs, artworks, films, and audio recordings relating to the rich and vibrant Jewish community in Poland before World War II. Conceived as an educational experience and a research tool, the new website has been developed to serve a broad audience of both the general public and scholars.
As Jonathan Brent, YIVO Executive Director notes, “There is something for everyone at this website, for the beginner who is just starting out, genealogists who are exploring their family roots, and scholars who have the expertise to read handwritten Russian, Yiddish or Hebrew manuscripts. The online exhibitions, the essay on Polish Jewish history, the photo gallery, the videos of home movies of shtetls in the 1930s, and the examples of Yiddish and Hebrew songs, are features designed to have popular appeal.”
Through the diverse artifacts presented on the website, the YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland mirrors the vibrancy and dynamism of prewar Polish Jews, who maintained their national vitality and determination to survive by developing a rich infrastructure of communal institutions in the areas of economy, labor, politics, religion, and culture. The site also reflects, in broad strokes, the narrative of Polish Jewish history through the centuries, from the Statute of Kalisz in 1264 (the first privilege granted to Jews by a Polish ruler), to the period of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, the 123 years during which partitioned Poland was divided up by Russia, Prussia and Austria, and the period of the Republic of Poland between the two world wars.
The full importance of YIVO’s Polish Jewish archival collections can be understood only in light of the near total destruction of Jewish communal and cultural archives and libraries in Poland during World War II. Poland was once the home of the largest Jewish community in the world and was one of the great centers of Jewish political, cultural, and religious life. YIVO’s Polish Jewish Archive is the only substantial American collection, and one of very few worldwide, which was saved from the destruction of the Holocaust.
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in Vilna, Poland, in 1925, and relocated to New York City in 1940 with the mission to study the thousand-year history of Jewish life in Eastern Europe and Russia in all its aspects: language, history, religion, folkways and material culture. Today YIVO's Archive and Library preserve the largest and most significant collection of materials on this subject in the world, and our mission remains the same. YIVO offers cultural events and programs throughout the year, including lectures, concerts, films, exhibitions and symposia. YIVO also offers adult education and Yiddish language programs, scholarly publications, research opportunities and fellowships.
The YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland was made possible by the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Additional support for project completion was made by Leonard and Chana Grunstein, in memory of Morris Grunstein, z”l.