Hebrew Institute Photographs

What's online?

Every photograph from this collection, for which there is sufficient identifying information, is available online.

What’s in the entire collection?

The photographs in this collection, held by the Rauh Jewish Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, range in date from 1915 to 1984. Many of the photographs show classes of students or graduation classes posed on the grounds of the Hebrew Institute with descriptions and identifying labels and dates. Other photographs depict the laying of the cornerstone and the Hebrew Institute’s first school bus. Also included in the collection is a folder of photographs from the Solomon Schechter Day School.

About the Hebrew Institute

The Hebrew Institute was founded in response to the lack of organization and supervision of Jewish education in the Pittsburgh area. The purpose of the Hebrew Institute was to make Jewish education a factor in youths’ lives by teaching the Hebrew language and literature and by fostering knowledge of Jewish history and ethics. It was the vision of Rabbi A. M. Ashinsky to establish a modern “Talmud Torah.” He first presented this idea at a community committee meeting at the Washington Bank Building on September 3, 1911. Ten days later, a second meeting was held at his residence. During this meeting, a vote was taken to name the Jewish educational institution the Hebrew Institute.

After gaining support and financial assistance from the community, on November 7, 1916, the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh opened its doors in a new building on Wylie Avenue and Green Street in the Hill District, where Pittsburgh’s Jewish immigrant population was centered at the time. The Hebrew Institute offered a kindergarten, elementary school, a student synagogue, library, printing department, sewing classes for girls and evening classes. In addition to classrooms, the building housed a game room and playground. The Hebrew Institute quickly became a center for Jewish community activities.

In the next few years after opening, the Hebrew Institute responded to the gradual demographic shift of Pittsburgh’s Jewish population to the East End. In order to accommodate the needs of the growing Jewish community in Squirrel Hill, in 1919, the Hebrew Institute began to use two rooms in the Colfax School for classes. In 1921, the school began to provide transportation for the 795 students enrolled. The teachers from the Hebrew Institute also taught classes that became part of Beth Shalom’s Hebrew School. The Hebrew Institute also assisted in organizing affiliate schools such as B’nai Israel Hebrew Institute and the Tree of Life Hebrew School.

In December 1943, the original building was sold and the Hebrew Institute relocated to a new building in May 1944 on Forbes and Denniston in Squirrel Hill. By 1954, the Hebrew Institute was conducting the largest kindergarten and summer camp of its kind in the country. The elementary school was also one of the country’s largest. The entire program for the Hebrew Institute was used as a model for similar educational institutions.

In 1991 the Hebrew Institute, Community Day School, and the School of Advanced Jewish Studies merged to form the Jewish Educational Institute of Greater Pittsburgh.

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