Accession consists of records documenting the activities of Eitz Chaim. Included are photographs, yearbooks, class lists and registers, teachers record books and student grade reports, curriculum materials, anniversary books and 2 DVDs from a gala dinner and fundraising event. Also included is the Beth Jacob High School dedication and founders dinner book.
Known then as the Poylishe Talmud Torah, Eitz Chaim began in 1915 with a few students in one classroom guided by one teacher. The school’s first premises were in the Elm Street Shul. Within a year, a second teacher, Reb Leibish Noble, was hired, and he remained actively involved in Eitz Chaim for 30 years. There were now 30 students in two classes. The four-hour nightly sessions were held at the end of the regular public school day with an additional six hours on Sunday. Classes continued throughout the summer as well.
The school’s first building on Chestnut Street was inaugurated in August 1916, with additional classes held at a branch on Simcoe Street. The second president of the school, Yosef Shidlowsky, in a move to be more inclusive of all Orthodox Jews, changed the name of the school to Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim.
In 1917, Mr. Shidlowsky, Itshe Meyer Korolnek, and Joseph Cooper managed not only to obtain a provincial charter to open a religious school, but were also instrumental in purchasing the Italian Club at 68 D’Arcy St. to accommodate the school’s growing enrollment.
In 1920, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Graubart arrived from Stashow, Poland, and assumed the post of spiritual leader of the Talmud Torah. He introduced more Hebrew instruction and a more intensive Torah curriculum.
In 1926, Rabbi Pinchas Ravad became the next principal, a position he retained for the next nine years. During that time, a separate girls’ class was formed and the first female teacher was hired. Although a fire in 1927 destroyed the wooden school building on D’Arcy St., a new, larger school was constructed on the same site and dedicated on December 30, 1927. After moving into the new building, student enrollment increased dramatically. Beginning with 300 students in 1929, the student body grew to 400 in 1931, 503 in 1933, and 600 in 1938.
After the passing of Rabbi Graubart, an evening high school yeshiva, the Maharil Graubart Yeshiva, was founded in 1939 to serve boys 14 years of age and up with Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky acting as rosh yeshiva beginning in 1941. The building next door to the Talmud Torah, at 80 D’Arcy Street, was purchased to provide space for the yeshiva and was connected via a walkway to the Talmud Torah. As the students of Eitz Chaim Talmud Torah graduated from the elementary school, they would eventually attend the Maharil Graubart Yeshiva. That same year, Rabbi Jacob I. Wohlgelernter became principal of the Talmud Torah and a kindergarten was added in 1942.
Seven years later, Rabbi Chaim Nussbaum officially assumed the role of principal of Eitz Chaim Schools. Beginning with only a grade 1, new grades were added every year until grades 1 through 9 were in place. Eitz Chaim gradually broadened its scope, welcoming Jewish students from many diverse backgrounds and establishing afternoon and day classes beginning in 1950 at a branch on Burnside Ave. To meet the growing demand for classes, the Torath Emeth Jewish Centre was established at 1 Viewmount Avenue in 1956.
By 1958, in response to the geographical shift of the Jewish population northward, the Tanenbaum Building was added to the complex, followed by the Korolnek Building in 1961, both at 1 Viewmount Avenue. By this time, Eitz Chaim had two principals: Rabbi Nussbaum, who oversaw Hebrew studies, and Rabbi Shlomo Jakubovitz, who oversaw general studies.
The two buildings on D’Arcy St. were sold in 1966 and the proceeds were designated toward purchasing a new school building to the north of the city. Rabbi Shlomo Jakobovits, Avraham Bleeman, Joe Goldwasser and Sam Wortsman led the way in persuading the Board of Directors to purchase the land at Patricia and Bathurst Streets. Patricia and Bathurst Streets served as the temporary location for portable units until the large, permanent building was completed in 1970. This location evolved into the boys’ campus, servicing students from all areas of the city.
Rabbi Shneur Weinberg succeeded Rabbi Nussbaum in 1969 and served as the Hebrew principal until his retirement in 1995, when Rabbi Aaron Levine took over. The position of Hebrew studies principal for the girls’ school was created in 1974 and was held by Rabbi Leibish Adler for 26 years. Rabbi Mordechai Gewirts succeeded Rabbi Adler in 2002 and was principal of the girls’ school until 2012. Eitz Chaim Schools developed rapidly and acquired an excellent reputation among North American day schools.
The female graduates of Eitz Chaim, for the most part, attended public high school. To counter this trend, Beth Jacob High School, with the guidance of Eitz Chaim, was launched in 1963, with classes conducted near the Viewmount branch. In 1966, the Beth Jacob High School and Teacher’s Seminary was completed on Lawrence Avenue, culminating in the opening of a girls’ high school that became completely independent of Eitz Chaim. Today, many female graduates of Etiz Chaim continue their education at Beth Jacob High School.
The Spring Farm campus, named for the farm formerly on that site, opened its doors in 1988. Currently, Eitz Chaim serves primarily as an elementary educational institute under the guidance of Rabbi Isser Pliner.
History from http://www.eitzchaim.com/index.php?page=history (viewed Oct. 6, 2014)
Partially closed. Researchers must receive permission from the OJA Director prior to accessing some of the records.
Physical Description note: Includes ca. 500 photographs, texts, 2 DVDs and 1 betacam cassette.
Use Conditions note: student grade reports are closed until 30 years after the death of the individual.