The reader should not be surprised that Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, zt”l, is not mentioned by Abelow. Rav Hutner became involved with Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in either 1935 or 1936, and Abelow’s book was published in 1937, so Abelow was probably not aware of Rav Hutner’s early activities with regard to the yeshiva.
Yeshiva Torah Vodaas
“The Yeshiva was conceived in 1917 by friends Binyomin Wilhelm and Louis Dershowitz to provide a yeshiva education centering on traditional Jewish sacred texts to the children of families then moving from the Lower East Side to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The two friends contacted prominent local Rabbi Zev Gold of Congregation Beth Jacob Anshe Sholom and together they formed a board and established the yeshiva in Williamsburg as an elementary school. Rabbi Gold was elected as the yeshiva’s first president; he suggested the name Torah Vodaas after the yeshiva founded in Lida in 1896 by Rabbi Yitzchak Yaacov Reines, which combined secular studies with Jewish studies and traditional Talmud study.
“The founding members of the yeshiva soon offered the principalship of the institution to Rabbi Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, who headed the yeshiva from 1922 to 1948. Under Rabbi Mendlowitz’s leadership, a mesivta (yeshiva high school) was opened in 1926. Later he opened a yeshiva gedola as well.”[i]
Abelow writes that Torah Vodaas “is one of the largest Hebrew parochial schools in the borough. It is located at 206 Wilson Street and has a branch on the comer of Bedford Avenue and Taylor Street. It has boys from many parts of the United States. In addition to the Hebrew instruction, it provides the students with free lunches.
“The officers of this school in 1933 were: President, Judah L. Gurfein; vice-presidents, Eleazar Perlmutter, Abraham Levin, Samuel Goldstein, Ben Zion Weberman, S. Silber, Raphael A. Gasner; treasurer, Moses Goldstein; gabbai, S. Hyman Fensterheim; secretary, Nathan Lieberman; ex – president, Eleazer Meyer Blum.”
The Shulamith Institute for Girls
The Shulamith School for Girls was founded in 1930 in Boro Park by Necha (Nettie) Rivkin and Rabbi M.G. Volk. It was the first girls’ yeshiva in the United States. Mrs. Rivkin taught kindergarten and first grade and supervised curriculum development. She introduced innovative methods for teaching Hebrew to young children. Rejecting rote memorization and drawing instead on the work of educational theorists Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget, she taught language skills through songs, games, stories, and pictures.
Abelow writes that “The Shulamith Institute for Girls is a progressive…. all-day school with Hebrew classes in the morning and classes in the elementary public school subjects from one to four in the afternoon.
“In 1936, the Hebrew department consisted of the principal, Bernard Charney, and the following teachers: Ruth Hausman, Rochelle Kirschblum, Nettie Rivkin, Lillian Salwen, and Basheva Weintraub. The English department was in charge of Max Kufeld, the principal, and the following teachers: Charlotte Abelow, Etta C. Brinberg, Ruth K. Jacobson, Goldie Murzin, and Gertrude R. Samet. Lillian Eidelman was the secretary. The Shulamith Institute is directed by a fine women’s organization. The school has its headquarters in the Hebrew Institute building on Fourteenth Avenue and Fiftieth Street.”