YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
In 1925, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in Vilna (Wilno, Poland; now Vilnius, Lithuania), by key European intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, to record the history and pioneer in the critical study of the language, literature and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe. From its inception, YIVO was deeply concerned that the language and culture of East European Jewry were undergoing radical change in a rapidly modernizing world. YIVO's founders were tireless in collecting the documents and archival records of Jewish communities across Eastern Europe, years before anyone could have predicted the devastation that would befall them. In 1940, YIVO moved its permanent headquarters to New York City, becoming the only pre-Holocaust institution to transfer its mission to the United States from Europe.
During World War II, several of YIVO's leading scholars managed to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and continue their work in the United States. After the war, through the efforts of survivors, the United States Army and others, a significant part of YIVO's collections were reclaimed and brought to the New York headquarters.
Today the YIVO Library holds over 385,000 books and periodicals in twelve major languages. This includes the unique Vilna Collection of 40,000 volumes with 25,000 rabbinical works from as early as the 16th century. The Library holdings are particularly strong in documentation of Jewish history, culture, and religion in Eastern Europe; the Holocaust period; the experience of immigration to the United States; anti-Semitism; and the continuing influence of Ashkenazic Jewish culture today.
The YIVO Archives holds over 24 million documents, photographs, recordings, posters, films, videotapes, and items of ephemera. These include the world's largest collection of East European Jewish sound recordings; over 200,000 photographs; 400+ videos and films; and 50,000 posters documenting Jewish life from the 1900s to the present. YIVO also has thousands of handwritten eyewitness accounts by Holocaust survivors and displaced persons; community records and documents from the Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna ghettos; over 750 memorial books from Jewish communities in Poland and neighboring countries; records of early immigrant relief and rescue organizations; autobiographies of hundreds of American Jewish immigrants; the Bund Archives and Library that traces the Jewish Labor Movement from its inception in Vilna in 1897; and the world's most extensive Yiddish music and theater collection.
YIVO offers public lectures, continuing education classes, Yiddish language instruction, publications, research fellowships, and graduate seminars through the Max Weinreich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies. YIVO is in the forefront of preserving Yiddish language and literature, and in advancing scholarship in the fields of East European Jewish Studies and the American Jewish immigrant experience.
Each year, more than 4,000 scholars, students, museum curators, writers, filmmakers, artists, performers, historians, and family history researchers visit the YIVO Library and Archives, the world's largest collection of Yiddish books, documents, and other artifacts related to the history of East European Jewry.
YIVO also offers a variety of scholarly publications, conferences, cultural programs, lectures, exhibitions, and courses.
Mission: To preserve, study, share, and perpetuate knowledge of the history and culture of East European Jewry worldwide.
YIVO actively collects print and non-print materials, printed and electronic books, documents, photographs, manuscripts, sound recordings, films, artifacts, art works, and other materials relating to all aspects of Jewish history and culture around the world. Of particular interest are materials relating to the everyday life, culture, and history of East European Jews and their descendants in the Americas and worldwide. Every year, the Archives and Library accession thousands of new items donated by individuals and organizations from all over the world.
The YIVO Archives collects everything from the letters, papers, and photographs of ordinary Jewish families to the manuscripts, documents and art works of prominent cultural figures and the institutional records of Jewish organizations.
For general information about donating materials to the YIVO Archives, contact:
Leo Greenbaum Accessions Archivist / Bund Archivist (+212) 294-6145
YIVO’s Archives and Library represent the single largest and most comprehensive collection of materials on East European Jewish civilization in the world, and receives upwards of 5,000 on-site visits, email, and phone requests annually.
The YIVO Archives contains some 23 million items, including sound and music collections, theater and art collections, communal and personal records, photographs and films, manuscripts, diaries, memoirs, personal correspondence, and much more.
YIVO’s Library has nearly 400,000 volumes in all European languages, and contains the largest collection of Yiddish-language books, pamphlets, and newspapers in the world.
Hours: 9:30 am - 5 pm, Monday through Thursday.
Photo and Film Archives Hours: 9:30 am - 5 pm, Monday through Thursday.
Music Archives Hours: 10 am - 4:30 pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday.
Sound Archives Hours: By appointment, Monday through Friday
The YIVO Archives and its special collections are open to the public by appointments made at least 1 week in advance at:
(General Archives, Music Archives, Art & Artifacts): email@example.com
(Photographs & Films): firstname.lastname@example.org
(Sound Archives): email@example.com
All public areas of the Center for Jewish History, including the Leo and Julia Forchheimer Auditorium, the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Great Hall, the Valentin M. Blavatnik Orientation Theater, the Selma L. Batkin Mezzanine, the classroom/meeting rooms as well as all galleries are wheelchair accessible.
Patrons with mobility disabilities who do not have access to a wheelchair may request a wheelchair free of charge. Wheelchairs are available in the main lobby on a first-come, first-served basis. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms are located on all floors of the Center.
For patrons who wish to transfer to a seat from their wheelchair, CJH will store your wheelchair. Please alert the staff if you will need assistance during intermission. Upon completion of the event, the staff member will return your wheelchair to you at your seat.
Assistive listening devices are available for patrons who are deaf or have hearing loss. Specifically, the Center for Jewish History provides the Sennheiser SI1015 Infrared Wireless System. Please see the Box Office Attendant upon your arrival at the Center to arrange for the use of an Assistive Listening Device. You will be required to leave valid identification such as a driver's license as collateral. There are limited Assistive Listening Devices available and will be given out on a first come first served basis. There is no charge for this service.
The YIVO Archives is now offering complimentary reference photograph services. You can find more information and add your request to the queue at this form.
The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is pleased to announce the launch of remote research sessions with a YIVO archivist. Researchers will have the opportunity to meet with a YIVO archivist to develop research plans for their projects.
Sessions will typically be available during business hours (ET) on Thursdays. Please note that this is a pilot project, so your patience is appreciated. We ask that you book only one session to begin with. If more time is needed, the reference archivist will arrange for next steps or for a follow-up appointment.
The YIVO Institute is pleased to offer research assistance for projects which are beyond the capacity of what we can do free of charge. Patrons will work with the YIVO Reference team to create a research plan, which will then be carried out by skilled research assistants. This service will be offered at a rate of USD $50 per hour.
Ordering reproductions of photographs, posters, documents, and other items from the YIVO Archives and Library:
- Download the YIVO reproductions price list/access form.
- Fill out and email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include as much information (e.g., catalog numbers, screenshots, book page numbers) as possible with your order, attaching additional pages as necessary. Please allow 1-2 weeks for a response.
- You will be sent an invoice for your order and payment must be received before it is processed.
Ordering audio materials: Please contact the YIVO Sound Archives at email@example.com for more information.
Ordering copies of film and video materials: Please contact the Photo and Film Archive at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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