Music Collections from the Pre-WWII Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Material Description

Both of the music collections to be digitized are from the pre-World War II archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, founded in 1925 in Wilno, Poland (present day Vilnius, Lithuania), and relocated to the United States in 1940. During the war, YIVO’s collections were looted by the Nazis. These collections are among the materials that survived, and which were rescued with the help of the U.S. Army and transferred to YIVO in New York. The large RG 7 Music (Vilna Archives) collection was originally part of YIVO’s prewar Esther Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum. It consists of rare and often unique musical works for the Jewish theater, including music for about 450 operas, operettas, and vaudeville skits. Most of the music was written for Yiddish and Hebrew theatrical works, but there are also pieces for plays in English, Russian, Polish and other languages. Composers and playwrights include some of the most famous and prominent in the history of Jewish theater. There are also manuscripts and printed sheets of art, popular, dance, and liturgical music. RG 37 Jewish Music Societies relates to several Jewish music societies in Eastern Europe, including the Society for Jewish Folk Music, St. Petersburg; Society for Jewish Music, Moscow; Carmel-Jewish Musical, Dramatic and Literary Society, Riga; Kultur Lige - Music Section, Kiev; Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society, Music Section, Leningrad; Winchevsky Jewish Folk Kapelye, Vinnitsa; and Institute for Jewish Proletarian Culture- Department of Music, Kiev.

Year Added:



YIVO Institute for Jewish Research


Dr. Jonathan Brent
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Date Range

1890 - 1890

Geographic Scope

RG 7 Music (Vilna Archives) consists of music from Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia, as well as from the United States, Argentina, and England. RG 37 Jewish Music Societies contains materials from the following cities in the Russian Empire/Soviet Union: St. Petersburg/Leningrad, Moscow, Vinnitsa, Kiev, and Riga.


  • 35.5 Musical Scores