East Side Hebrew Institute
The Talmud Torah
The East Side Hebrew Institute (or as it was called: ESHI) was founded in 1910 by a group of immigrants from the town of Zhitomir in Russia. Mr. David R. Zaslowsky was its first principal and founder. The school spent the bulk of its years, 1928–1974, in a large red brick building at the corner of 8th Street and Avenue B (295 East 8th Street). At first, ESHI was a Talmud Torah. Children attended the school at the close of public school and on Sunday mornings. They received 2 hours of instruction each session. On Saturday the children conducted their own service in the building’s synagogue.
The Day School
In 1948, after Rabbi Max D. Raiskin’s appointment as Principal, a nursery-kindergarten was opened to serve the Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town area. Soon after that, a Day School was established which grew grade by grade through High School. In 1975 – the first High School Graduation was held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. One of the major reasons for establishing the Day School was the need for a quality Jewish day school in lower Manhattan serving the general Jewish public, not only the religious population.
- Shelley Ackerman
- Maurice Berger
- Kevin Bright
- Julius Rosenberg
- Paul Reiser
- Sharon Lebewohl
- Ron Silver
There is a lively ESHI Alumni Group on Facebook with more than 120 ESHI alumni posting stories, photographs and opportunities to reconnect.
Extra curricular activities
The school had a variety of extra curricular activities. There was a glee club, an orchestra, ballet classes twice a week for those interested, private piano lessons and private tutoring when required. Additionally, ESHI had Little League, organized by the Fathers Club; and there were class newspapers, while the upper classes were also instructed to read and use the New York Times as a basis. Science fairs were held several times a year. Every class had to present some science experiment and the best one would be chosen as the winner. On Lag Ba'omer, the school used to go to Randalls Island for a picnic, or to the Palisades Park. ESHI also had its own youth movement named “Shimshon" and "Shimshona”, for the boys and girls, respectively.
The move to Irving Place
Winds of change
The Avenue B district had been in rapid transition. The Jewish population moved out of the crowded tenements for new middle-class neighborhoods. The numbers that remained behind dwindled rapidly, and the student body of the Talmud Torah diminished. The Day School, however, was meeting a radically different need; it grew and grew. Parents would not send their children into the increasingly dangerous East Side for an hour and a half of Jewish after-school instruction, which could have frequently been conducted closer to the student’s home. But a quality Day School education, valuing Judaism and academic excellence, and offered at a rate lower-middle income people could afford, was something worth traveling to obtain. There was, however, a limit to parental interest in searching out the special values offered by the ESHI Day School. If the area around the school became so blighted that parents feared to send their children, the school would cease to be effective. It became increasingly clear that a move would be necessary. For years, taking note of the increasing pressures, the school’s leadership and friends searched for an alternative that would keep the tuition levels of the school within reason. The location had to be physically close to the existing parent body in order to allow for continuity. In July, 1975, the move was made to 61 Irving Place, in Manhattan. However, the school would only survive five more years, until it merged with the Park East Synagogue.
Merging with the Park East Synagogue and Nursery
In the early 1980s, the East Side Hebrew Institute merged with the Park East Synagogue, the latter having only a pre-school until the merger. The new merged school was named "Park East ESHI". Several years later, the name “ESHI” was removed by the new school board, which gave it the old-new name, “Park East” (the Park East Day School). The old school had still been alive through the veins of these remaining students, but under a new name; and in a way, ESHI continues to exist through the Park East Day School and its students today as well.
- Sanders, Ronald. The Lower East Side: A Guide to Its Jewish Past with 99 New Photographs. New York : Dover Publications, 1979, p. 29.
- Raiskin, Rabbi Max D. “A History of ESHI”. The ESHI Scroll, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1976), p. 2.
- Raiskin, Shlomy. “'The 70 good years' – Manhattan’s 'Zitomir Talmud Torah Darchei Noam' and 'East Side Hebrew Institute' (E.S.H.I.) – 1910–1981". Dor LeDor, 25 (2005), pp.158–172.
- Lippel, Rhoda Marilyn (July 14, 1991). "Tompkins Square - Letter to the Editor". The New York Times. p. R21 (Real Estate section). Retrieved June 7, 2010.
- “Hebrew Institute Is Planning To Relocate To YMHA”, East Side News (Friday, August 3, 1973), p. 4.
- Wyatt, Hugh. “Hebrew School Spurns Exodus to Subusrbs”, Sunday News, Living in Manhattan and the Bronx (January 4, 1976), Front page.
- Goldman, Victoria; Hausman, Catherine. The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools. New York : Soho Press, 2001, p. 403.
- Freedman, Yael A. “What happens when a Day School moves from Lower to Upper East Side of NY?”, The Jewish Week - American Examiner (Week of April 18, 1982), p. 22.