President of the Republic of Lithuania

Invaluable heritage of Vilnius Jews at the YIVO Institute

2019-03-13

Wednesday, March 13, New York – President Dalia Grybauskaitė visited the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York where documents of high historic value to the Lithuanian Jews are kept.

The institute was founded in Vilnius in 1925, and during the inter-war period collected a vast library of books and documents, emerging as an important center of Jewish science and culture that fostered the Yiddish language, research and helped preserve the Jewish heritage of Central and Eastern Europe, Germany and Russia. In 1940, after the Nazis occupied Vilnius, the institute relocated to its branch in New York to pursue its activities there. Today, the collection of the YIVO institute in New York contains some 23 million documents related to Jewish heritage with the oldest items dating back to the 16th century.

After her meeting with Jonathan Brent, executive director of the institute, the President visited the Strašiūnas Library and examined the most valuable documents of the YIVO archives.   

According to the President, Yivo’s collection of intellectual valuables not only highlights Jewish cultural and historical heritage, but also tells about the spiritual strength and courage of those – Lithuanians and Jews – who saved these precious documents.

The Strašiūnas Library is named after Matityahu Strashun (1817–1885), founder of the Vilnius Jewish community. In his will, he left a vast collection of Jewish religious works from all over Europe to the YIVO library and the majority of the collection survived through WWII.

The documents and printed editions of the Vilnius Jewish community discovered in Lithuanian libraries in 1990 are now kept at the Judaica Research Center in the Mažvydas National Library and digitized under the YIVO Vilna Online Collections project, which virtually reunites the archival collections located in New York and Vilnius.

The President and top Yivo officials discussed a new stage of cooperation between the Mažvydas National Library and YIVO to examine 200 thousand more items of Jewish documentary heritage found in St. George's Church. 

At the President’s initiative, the YIVO institute agreed to lend one of its most precious documents (Handwritten Chronicle of the Vilna Gaon Synagogue) for an exhibition in Vilnius timed to the 300th anniversary of the Vilna Gaon. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has designated 2020 as the Year of the Vilna Gaon and the History of the Jews of Lithuania.

Press Service of the President

Last updated 2019.03.13 09:34

Back