East Side Hebrew Institute

The East Side Hebrew Institute was a traditional Jewish day school, in the East Village/Alphabet City area of Manhattan, New York City. It was "once one of the major institutions of the Jewish East Side".[1]

East Side Hebrew Institute

Coordinates40°46′2.32″N 73°57′47.56″W / 40.7673111°N 73.9632111°W / 40.7673111; -73.9632111Coordinates: 40°46′2.32″N 73°57′47.56″W / 40.7673111°N 73.9632111°W / 40.7673111; -73.9632111
TypeJewish day school
Religious affiliation(s)Jewish
Established1910 (1910)
FounderA group of immigrants
The ESHI Scroll (1976), school newspaper


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. 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).[2]

At first, ESHI was a Talmud Torah. Children attended the school at the close of public school and on Sunday mornings. They received two hours of instruction each session. On Saturday the children conducted their own service in the building’s synagogue.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Alphabet City 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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] The new merged school was named "Park East ESHI".[10] 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.[11]

Notable alumniEdit

There is a lively ESHI Alumni Group on Facebook with nearly 200 ESHI alumni posting stories, photographs and opportunities to reconnect.

Extracurricular activitiesEdit

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.[12] The school also held the first program in the U.S. for preparing mentally challenged and blind children for their Bar Mitzvah, initiated and directed by Rabbi Raiskin.[13] ESHI also had its own youth movement named “Shimshon" and "Shimshona”, for the boys and girls, respectively, which was founded by Mordecai Wucher of Bridgeport Connecticut.[14]


  1. ^ Sanders, Ronald. The Lower East Side: A Guide to Its Jewish Past with 99 New Photographs. New York : Dover Publications, 1979, p. 29.
  2. ^ See: Barbaralee Diamonstein, Landmarks of New York III, Harry N. Abrams, 1998, p. 312.
  3. ^ See: “'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), p. 168.
  4. ^ Rabbi Max D. Raiskin, “A History of ESHI”. The ESHI Scroll, Vol. 1, No. 1 (1976), p. 2.
  5. ^ See: “'The 70 good years'...", op. cit., p.170.
  6. ^ Paul Hofmann, "Hippies Heighten East Side Tensions", The New York Times (June 03, 1967), p. 16: "'This Neighborhood fascinates the Hippies', remarked Rabbi Max Raiskin of the East Side Hebrew Institute, a private school at 295 East Eighth Street. 'Every runaway kid from East of the Mississippi seems to be here this summer. West of the Mississippi they run off to San Francisco'".
  7. ^ “Hebrew Institute Is Planning To Relocate To YMHA”, East Side News (Friday, August 3, 1973), p. 4.
  8. ^ Wyatt, Hugh. “Hebrew School Spurns Exodus to Subusrbs”, Sunday News, Living in Manhattan and the Bronx (January 4, 1976), Front page.
  9. ^ Goldman, Victoria; Hausman, Catherine. The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools. New York : Soho Press, 2001, p. 403.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Gerard R. Wolfe, "The Synagogues of New York's Lower East Side: A Retrospective and Contemporary View", New York: Fordham University Press 2013, p. 86: "As the Jewish community dwindled, the ESHI day school eventually merged with uptown Park East Synagogue's day school. Today, the school is known as The Park East Day School. With the move of the day school, the former congregants of ESHI joined community synagogue".
  12. ^ See: “'The 70 good years'...", op. cit., p.163.
  13. ^ “Jewish Training Slated; Mentally Retarded Children to Learn Fundamentals of Faith”, New York Times (December 19, 1953), p. 18: "Starting the first of the year, the class will meet at the East Side Hebrew Institute in Manhattan. Carl Rappaport, association president, announced yesterday. Members will be taught in the simplest way, he explained, the history of the Jewish people and the meaning of the holy days and how to observe them. Rabbi M. Raiskin, director of the institute, will conduct the program". Also see: "Pioneering efforts at preparing mentally challenged children for 'Bar-Mitzvah' in the 1950s", Dor Ledor 32 (2008) VII-XIX; Ida Rappaport, “Parents and Retarded Children” [An address at the Consultation on Religious Classes for Mentally Retarded Children, October 8, 1964, New York City…], Religious Education, Vol. 60 No. 3 (May–June 1965), p. 183.
  14. ^ Linda Eliovson, "Shimshon has provided 44 years of fun and learning", The Sunday Post, Bridgeport, April 19, 1981, Metro section, C-2.