YIVO, (Yiddish: ייִוואָ), established in 1925 in Wilno, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut (Yiddish: ייִדישער װיסנשאַפֿטלעכער אינסטיטוט, Yiddish Scientific Institute,) is a source for orthography, lexicography, and other studies related to the Yiddish language. (The word yidisher can mean both "Yiddish" and "Jewish".) The English name of the organization was changed to the Institute for Jewish Research subsequent to its relocation to New York City, although it is still primarily known by its Yiddish acronym.
YIVO preserves manuscripts, rare books, and diaries, and other Yiddish sources. The YIVO Library in New York contains over 385,000 volumes dating from as early as the 16th century. The YIVO Archives holds over 24,000,000 documents, photographs, recordings, posters, films, and other artifacts. Together, they comprise the world's largest collection of materials related to the history and culture of Central and East European Jewry and the American Jewish immigrant experience. The Archives and Library collections also hold many works in twelve major languages, including English, French, German, Hebrew, Ladino, Polish, and Russian.
YIVO also functions as a publisher of Yiddish-language books and of periodicals including YIVO Bleter  (founded 1931), Yedies Fun YIVO (founded 1929), and Yidishe Shprakh (founded 1941). It is also responsible for such English-language publications as the YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Studies (founded 1946).
YIVO was initially proposed by Yiddish linguist and writer Nochum Shtif (1879–1933). He characterized his advocacy of Yiddish as "realistic" Jewish nationalism, contrasted to the "visionary" Hebraists and the "self-hating" assimilationists who adopted Russian or Polish. Other key founders included philologist and theater director Max Weinreich (1894–1969) and historian Elias Tcherikover (1881–1943).
Founded at a conference in Berlin, but headquartered in Wilno – a city then in Eastern Poland with a large Jewish population – the early YIVO also had branches in Berlin, Warsaw and New York City. Over the next decade, smaller groups arose in many of the other countries with Ashkenazic Jewish populations.
In YIVO's first decades, Tcherikover headed the historical research section, which also included Shimon Dubnow, Saul Ginsburg, Abraham Menes, and Jacob Shatzky; Leibush Lehrer (1887–1964) headed a section including psychologists and educators Abraham Golomb, H. S. Kasdan, and A. A. Roback; Jacob Lestschinsky (1876–1966) headed a section of economists and demographers Ben-Adir, Liebman Hersh, and Moshe Shalit; Weinreich's language and literature section included J. L. Cahan, Alexander Harkavy, Judah A. Joffe, Selig Kalmanovitch, Shmuel Niger, Noah Prilutzky, and Zalman Reisen. YIVO also collected and preserved ethnographic materials under the direction of its Ethnographic Committee. In 1925, YIVO's honorary board of trustees or "Curatorium" consisted of Simon Dubnow, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Moses Gaster, Edward Sapir and Chaim Zhitlowsky.
From 1934-1940, YIVO operated a graduate training program known as the Aspirantur. Named after Zemach Shabad, YIVO’s chairman, the program held classes and guided students in conducting original research in the field of Jewish studies. Many of the students' projects were sociological in nature (reflecting the involvement of Max Weinreich) and gathered information on contemporary Jewish life in the Vilna region.
The Nazi advance into Eastern Europe caused YIVO to move its operations to New York, with a second important center established as the Fundacion IWO in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A third active center of activities today is the Chicago YIVO Society.
Part of the YIVO archives and leadership fortuitously survived the war. For their own reasons, the Nazis carried the bulk of YIVO's archives to Berlin, where the papers survived the war intact and eventually ended up in New York, and all four directors of YIVO's research sections were already in the Americas when the war broke out or were able to make their way there.
YIVO has undertaken many major scholarly publication projects, the most recent being The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, published in March 2008 in cooperation with Yale University Press. Under the leadership of editor-in-chief Gershon David Hundert, professor of history and of Jewish Studies at McGill University in Montreal, this unprecedented reference work systematically represents the history and culture of Eastern European Jews from their first settlement in the region to the present day. More than 1,800 alphabetical entries encompass a vast range of topics including religion, folklore, politics, art, music, theater, language and literature, places, organizations, intellectual movements, and important figures. The two-volume set also features more than 1,000 illustrations and 55 maps. With original contributions from an international team of 450 distinguished scholars, the encyclopedia covers the region between Germany and the Ural Mountains, from which more than 2.5 million Jews emigrated to the United States between 1870 and 1920.
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research | Brief Introduction
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research | Overview of Library Collections
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research | Overview
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research | YIVO in the United States
- Liptzin, Sol (1972). A History of Yiddish Literature. Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers. pp. 127–130, 133. ISBN 0-8246-0124-6.
- Liptzin, 1972, 130, 133
- Liptzin, 1972, 3, 133
- Yale University Press, 2008
- Prager, Leonard, "Yiddish Studies in Israel III", Mendele, Vol. 6.277, April 4, 1997
- Liptzin, Sol, A History of Yiddish Literature, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1972, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6.
- Further reading
- Dawidowicz, Lucy S. From that Place and Time: A Memoir 1938 - 1947. New York: Norton, 1989. ISBN 0-393-02674-4
- Fishman, David E. Embers Plucked From The Fire: The Rescue of Jewish Cultural Treasures in Vilna New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 1996. (in English and Yiddish)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Center for Jewish History|
- Official site
- The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe
- YIVO (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut) – The Yiddish Scientific Institute in the online exhibition The Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Story of the Jewish Community of Vilna by Yad Vashem
- Guide to the Records of the YIVO Aspirantur, 1934-1940