World ORT Organisation for educational Resourses and Technological training
Educating since 1880

04/03 2015

Digital Archive of Jewish Shtetls

Team of St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies (PIJS) and Centre "ORT-Petersburg" launched an interesting project "Digital Archive of Jewish Shtetls."

In the autumn of 2014 St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies for the first time in many years gained its own building, which will house classrooms, a library and a research archive of PIJS containing a unique collection of Jewish historical documents and artefacts. In the same building with the support of ORT a modern computer lab was opened. At the same time the idea of ​​the project to digitize archive materials and the creation of an archive site that is designed for a wide range of Internet users who are interested in Jewish history and culture, from school and university students up to researchers of Russian Jewry, both in Russia and abroad.

The project team has the aim of creating a modern website pf PIJS archive, which in the future will become a large-scale platform for placement of historical materials from the archival collection in an accessible format. As a part of the project, it is planned to create the original site, featuring a modern and user-friendly interface that has the search function and other options that are relevant both for specialists and for the widest audience. There documents will be posted from expeditionary fund archive of PIJS representing the ethnographic material collected during expeditions in the late 1980s - early 1990s. They form the basis of an archive and have a special historical value. Ethnographers during their expeditions to the towns of Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States in the late 1980s and early 1990s were able to collect memories of last witnesses of civilization of Jewish shtetl, disappeared in the 20th century. The project will help not only to present these materials, but thanks to digitization would contribute to their conservation.

As the head of the project team Viktor Amchislavsky pointed out: "It is a remarkable thing that ORT supports St. Petersburg Institute of Jewish Studies, and our project team. I have always respected when Jewish organizations of Petersburg are turning their attention and energy on the intellectual and cultural heritage of Russian Jewry.

I remember an amazing ORT project, dedicated to its 120th anniversary when a multimedia CD "The Jews of St. Petersburg: three centuries of history" had been issued.  For the first time in digital form the history of the Jewish Petersburg has been presented and  unique documents of federal archives, photographs, chronological and biographical information had been published.

It was a thought-scale work: the creators managed to cover not only the 3-centuries history of the St. Petersburg Jews, but also to systematize it, to see the past in its development. Few people take such a bold attempt, because it is remembered to this day and is still relevant.

I think that is very symbolic that ORT, founded in St. Petersburg in the last quarter of the 19th century, in the era of national revival and the regeneration of a Jewish education in Russia continues to maintain a chain of Jewish tradition. ORT in its origin - was the intellectual result of the St. Petersburg Jews, whose historical influence on the destiny of the Jewish people in the 20th century was very significant. This influence extends from Zionism to Jewish culture and social and community strategies. These phenomena (ideas, meanings), though were born in St. Petersburg, but is embodied later - in the fate of Israel, in the work of immigrants in the United States and other countries, in many others.

I had been studying at the ORT School #550 (ORT de Gunzburg) in St. Petersburg. Then I knew less about the legacy of this organization ... As a student, I was interested in studying the history of the community of St. Petersburg of the 19th century and I always wanted to bridge the gap between the modern Jewish community and that glorious community that existed before the revolution, to find common points, meaning ... The fact that ORT, created 135 years ago in my hometown, in the bosom of my community, exists to this day, is a living proof of chain of traditions, despite the lost links in the Soviet times. "

This project is supported by the UJA-Federation of New York as part of the charitable program of CAF Russia Jewish communities."


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