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Since its founding in 1925 in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania) the YIVO Institute has collected personal histories from Jews so that future historians would be able to explore how world events impacted Jewish life.
Through revolutions, wars, genocides, famine and yes, epidemics, YIVO has always aimed to ensure that the Jewish people “wrote down and recorded” as Simon Dubnow, the founder of the institute’s historical section, expressed it in his final words in the Riga Ghetto.
In Dubnow’s time, historians needed to travel from shtetl to shtetl collecting old communal record books and distributing lengthy surveys that would be returned via the postal service. Now all historians need to do is create a Google form that can be filled out from the comfort of one’s own home.
Recently, the YIVO Institute began circulating a survey to find out how COVID-19 is impacting Jewish life. Among the questions: how virus-related restrictions have impacted Passover Seders, synagogue life and Jewish schools. While the survey questions are in English, responses may be submitted in any language.
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Jordan Kutzik is a staff writer at the Forverts.