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On Monday, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) announced that it has completed the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections Project (EBVOCP)—a first of its kind that sheds new light on prewar Jewish history and culture throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.

More than 4.1 million pages of original books, artifacts, records, manuscripts, and documents that survived the holocaust, have been digitally reunited through a dedicated web portal that is now accessible worldwide. It includes everything from copies of the rarest sermons of 18th-century Chassidic rabbis to a singular collection of Yiddish.

“It’s very difficult to understand how little we truly know, especially in the United States, of what that past was. For most of us, what we know is handed down from our grandparents or great-grandparents who may have come from Eastern Europe,” Jonathan Brent, CEO of YIVO, told the JNS. “That is to say that most of us know the family history. And even that, in my case, for instance, was confined to the fact that I knew my one set of grandparents came from Zhytomyr and another from Chernigov. They lived basically in mud holes and were humiliated most of the time, and that was it. That was the culture that I came from.”

The colossal seven-year, $7 million initiative took to processing, conserving, and digitizing YIVO’s pre-World War II library and archival collections. The project is an international partnership between YIVO and three Lithuanian institutions: the Lithuanian Central State Archives, the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania and the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

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Rhea Sovani

Author Rhea Sovani

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