Guide to the Records of the Sofia M. Gurevitch Gymnasium, 1895-1940, RG 51

Processed by YIVO staff. Additional processing with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation.  Processing completed and finding encoded by Sarah Ponichtera as part of the CJH Holocaust Resource Initiative, made possible by the Claims Conference, New York

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

©2012 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved.

Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Sarah Ponichtera in December 2011. EAD finding aid was customized in ARCHON in 2012. Description is in English.

Collection Overview

Title: Guide to the Records of the Sofia M. Gurevitch Gymnasium, 1895-1940, RG 51

ID: RG 51 FA

Extent: 0.5 Linear Feet


As the records of the Pedagogical Museum had been filed by topic with no regard for provenance, they were rearranged in 1982, item by item, by the YIVO staff. Several new record groups were separated by this process, among them the records of the Sofia Gurevitch Gymnasium. Additional processing completed in December 2011 by Sarah Ponichtera.

Series I: Administrative Materials, 1895-1940

Series II: Pedagogical Materials, 1908-1936


This collection contains the most significant internal records of the Sofia M. Gurevitch gymnasium’s early years, including the official documents giving permission for the founding and expansion of the school. There are also pedagogical materials, including student work and lesson plans, dating primarily from the later period of the school’s existence. These materials illustrate a Jewish school’s relationship with the Russian government before WWI, and the transformation of its pedagogy, as it shifted focus to become a Yiddish-language secular school in the 1930s.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

These records were generated by teachers, students, administrators, and applicants to the Sofia M. Gurevitch gymnasium. The materials fall fairly equally into two categories: administrative records, which concern obtaining permission to found and expand the school, and pedagogical records, which include the minutes of the meetings of the pedagogical council as well as student work and lesson plans. The majority of the materials date from the early period of the school’s existence, from 1906-1922, and are in Russian, although the student work and lesson plans date primarily from the latter period, and are in Yiddish.

Historical Note

The Sofia M. Gurevitch gymnasium was established in 1906, as a progressive girl’s elementary school in Vilna. At that time, Russian was the language of instruction, and Vilna itself was a part of the Russian empire. The gymnasium relocated to Poltava in the Ukraine during the upheaval of World War I, but returned to Vilna in 1918, with a changing educational focus toward Yiddish language and culture. From 1918-1922, the gymnasium used both Russian and Yiddish as languages of instruction, but after 1922, the school operated exclusively in Yiddish.1 It also became co-ed, and expanded to include more grade levels. WWI was a catalyst for many institutions to evolve into new forms, and the S. M. Gurevitch gymnasium was no exception.2 After WWI, the Sofia M. Gurevitch gymnasium affiliated itself with TSYSHO, a Poland-based organization that, in addition to running its own school system, supported other secular Yiddish-language schools throughout the region. TSYSHO shared educational goals with the Bund: both sought to educate a new generation using new pedagogical methods and an expanded curriculum, which included music and fine art, physical education, and the sciences.3 In a 1924 article, S. M. Gurevitch states that her pedagogical approach emphasizes individual, independent exploration on the part of the children, and that the teachers alter their methodology to suit their students, along the lines of the Montessori method.4 Sofia M. Gurevitch herself served as an administrator in TSBK, the Vilna outpost of TSYSHO. The S. M. Gurevitch gymnasium was associated with the Mefitsei Haskalah gymnasium for boys, also called Zemach Shabad, which made a similar transition from Russian to Yiddish-language instruction.5 Sofia M. Gurevitch appears to have retired around 1931. Subsequently, the gymnasium changed its name and formalized its association with TSBK, and continued to operate at least through 1936.6

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions: Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011 email:

Acquisition Method: These records originated in the Pedagogical Museum of the YIVO Institute in Vilna in the 1930s.

Related Materials: Materials related to the school after Sofia Gurevitch's retirement can be found in the Records of the TSYSHO (Tsentral Yidishe Shul Organizatsye), which is also at YIVO.

Preferred Citation: Published citations should take the following form:Identification of item, date (if known); Records of the Sofia M. Gurevitch Gymnasium; RG 51; box number 1; folder number; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

Series I: Administrative Materials, 1895-1940,
Series II: Pedagogical Materials, 1908-1936

Series I: Administrative Materials, 1895-1940
This series includes official permission to found the gymnasium, correspondence with Russian and German officials relating to requests for financial support for the move to Poltava, permission to expand the gymnasium to include additional grade levels, and to admit boys as well as girls. This series also contains internal documents, such as registers of students, report cards, and diplomas, including Sophia Gurevitch’s own diploma. The bulk of the series consists of correspondence with students regarding admission to the gymnasium and requests for placement exams. There are also a few invitations to school events.
Arrangement: Chronological.
Box 1
Folder 1: Certifications and Diplomas, 1895-1916
Folder 2: Founding Documents, 1906
Folder 3: Official Permissions, 1906
Folder 4: Official Requests, 1906-1940
Folder 5: Register of Students, 1906-1915
Folder 6: Official Correspondence, undated, 1915
Folder 7: Student Correspondence, 1915-1922
Folder 8: Invitations, Printed Materials, Clippings, 1917-1932
Folder 9: Diplomas and Report Cards, 1920-1929
Series II: Pedagogical Materials, 1908-1936
This series consists of pedagogical materials, primarily classroom work produced by students, and lesson plans produced by teachers, written in Yiddish. The second primary component of this series consists of the Minutes of the Pedagogical Council, from 1908-1922, which are in Russian. The series also includes school ID cards and Russian notes relating to student clubs.
Arrangement: Chronological.
Box 1
Folder 10: Minutes of the Pedagogical Council (loose), 1908-1922
Folder 11: Minutes of the Pedagogical Council (bound), 1912-1914
Folder 12: Student Club, Miscellaneous Materials, undated, 1918
Folder 13: Classroom Work, 1918-1936
Folder 14: Notes on Lessons, undated, 1936
Folder 15: Student Work, undated
Folder 16: Curriculum Notes, undated

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