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Yad Vashem The Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Story of the Jewish Community of Vilna

The Interwar Period

Parties, Movements and Organizations

Activities of the Zionists in Vilna for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The 1918 laying of the Hebrew University's cornerstone on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem inspired joy and hope amongst the Zionists. In 1920, a committee was established in Vilna to collect books for the national and university library in Jerusalem. The committee publicized a call to action, and gathered books as well as financial donations to cover their shipping. At the circumcision ceremony of the son of the singing teacher at the Hebrew gymnasium (high school), M. Durmashkin, Hebrew teachers Chaim A. Chazan, Y. D. Gordon and others collected donations, among them for the Hebrew University.

The first package of eleven crates containing 3,000 books was sent from Vilna at the end of 1924. In advance of the festive opening ceremony of the University in 1925, the committee put out an additional call for books, and more works were collected. The library's director, Dr. Hugo Bergmann, sent a letter of thanks and appreciation to the community of Vilna.

The Zionists in Vilna invited other circles in the city to join them in celebrating the opening ceremonies of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The Jewish Democratic Party congratulated the University, but announced it would not join the celebrations because the University "could not satisfy the thirst of thousands of Jews for science"; millions of Jews would still have to fight for the rights of Yiddish and the development of free culture. The Hebrew University, far from Vilna, could not become their centre of Enlightenment. Many students on the Jewish Students' Association Committee in the town "expressed sorrow that the first Hebrew University would not be administered in the living language of the Jewish people." Echoing their concerns, the President of the Hebrew University responded in his letter to the Director of the Hebrew Gymnasium in Vilna that graduates of the Yiddish school would not be accepted into the University. Notwithstanding this announcement, the Vilna Jewish Students' Sports Club celebrated the establishment of the University and decided to send its future sports association a gift – a discus.

The exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Mr. Nehemia Burgin in memory of his dear and beloved parents, Holocaust survivors Zlata (Zehava) Burgin and Yehiel Burgin of blessed memory.