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Downtown Talmud Torah

Title: Downtown Talmud Torah
Inclusive Dates: 1951-1964
ID: RG 1867
expand icon Administrative/Biographical History
The Downtown Talmud Torah was an elementary and secondary afternoon Hebrew school located in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City.  Founded in 1892 (or possibly, in 1894) as the First Austrian Talmud Torah, it was considered a pioneer in modern Jewish education in New York City and in the United States, advocating an integration between Judaism and Americanization.  It originally educated poor boys in religion, Jewish history, and ethics, and increasingly emphasized Hebrew, rather than Yiddish.  Classes met four times during the week in the afternoon or evening and on Sunday mornings.  During its formative years, it was housed in the First Galician Duckler Mogen Abraham Synagogue at 87 Attorney Street.  William Fischman was the chief financial supporter of the institution and its president from 1902 until at least the middle of the century.  In 1905, Galician-born lawyer, Benjamin Koenigsberg became one of the long-term members of the institution’s Board of Directors.  During its earlier years, its principals included Emanuel Baron and Israel Konowitz.  Included among its early-century teachers were Frederic Ewen, Oscar I. Janowsky, and Simon Rifkind.  As of 1909, approximately 700 orphaned Jewish children attended the school free of charge.  At that time, the institution was located at 77 Sheriff Street.  That same year, it purchased a six-story, fire-proof building at 394-396 East Houston Street, to which it relocated in 1911.  In 1910, the institution changed its name to the Downtown Talmud Torah, and by 1911, had an estimated 1,100 students.  By this time the school charged tuition, although many, if not most, students continued to attend free of charge, due to monetary constraints.  Possibly around 1922/23, the Downtown Talmud Torah also instituted a separate girls’ division through the Bureau of Jewish Education, where approximately 400 girls studied Jewish history, laws, customs, music, and Hebrew.  In 1959, the school was forced to move to 142 Broome Street, due in part to the widening of East Houston Street.  By the early 1960s, the institution was doing poorly, financially, as most of its student body was unable to pay tuition.  As reflected in the class yearbook of 1963, the Downtown Talmud Torah appears to have merged that year with the Yeshivas Ohel Torah, due to a decline in the local Jewish population and the increasing popularity of Jewish day schools.  In 1967, Max Stern, the president of the Downtown Talmud Torah at that time, corresponded with Koenigsberg regarding the school’s general state of decline and its future.  In 1970, the Downtown Talmud Torah closed, after selling its building to the Beth Jacob School for $207,500.
expand icon Administrative Information
Acquired: 09/28/2008.
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Acquisition Note: Mordechai Granit
Collection Material Type: Official Records
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