The Centre for Cultural Communities of Vilnius University is aimed at preserving Jewish heritage and spreading information about it. The university also hosts the Yiddish Institute, where the language is taught and Yiddish culture is fostered.
The university’s Yiddish Language and Literature Institute was founded in 1940, but it only operated until the start of the Second World War in Lithuania. Even within such a short time, the department head, Noah Prylucki, was able to publish a book about the history of Jewish theatre. He also prepared and conducted several lecture cycles on Yiddish language and culture. During the war, many university professors and employees helped save Jewish lives.
One of the most prominent of these personalities is Ona Šimaitė, a librarian and publisher. A memorial plaque dedicated to her acts can be found in the courtyard of the university library, and a street in Vilnius’ Old Town bears her name. In 1866-1915, I.P. Trutnev’s renowned art school operated in the university. It developed many artists and sculptors who later became internationally recognised, including Jacques Lipchitz, Naoum Aronson, and Chaim Soutine.