EẒ ḤAYYIM, an Orthodox educational institution in Jerusalem, including a kindergarten, a talmud torah, a preparatory yeshivah (" yeshivah ketanah "), a yeshivah, and a *kolel. During the Turkish period Eẓ Ḥayyim served as the central Ashkenazi educational institution of the old yishuv, particularly for the youth of the Perushim community (the descendants of the disciples of Elijah, Gaon of Vilna), the ḥasidim having established the ḤHayyei Olam Yeshivah.
Eẓ Ḥayyim was established as a talmud torah for orphans in the early 1850s at a meeting held in the women's gallery of the "Menahem Zion" Bet Midrash in the courtyard of the Hurvah Synagogue, and reflected the growth of the Ashkenazi community, particularly with regard to children. Its budget was originally entirely dependent upon direct allocations from the Kolel Jerusalem in Vilna and R. Samuel *Salant was appointed its head. In 1855, a "Ḥevrat Talmud Torah" was founded in Jerusalem which assumed responsibility for the institution under the leadership of R. Salant and R. Isaiah *Bardaki. The Hevrah imposed indirect taxes on the Ashkenazi community, in the form of a fixed percentage from weddings, circumcisions, and synagogue offerings, to augment those funds which were received from abroad.
The regulations provided inter alia that if a pupil showed no learning ability by the time he reached the age of 13 he was to be taught a trade, the leaders of the yishuv thus accepting, at least in principle, the idea of occupational training.
In 1858 there arrived in Jerusalem R. Saul Benjamin Ha-Kohen Radzkowitz, a man of considerable organizational ability and imagination, who took upon himself the task of establishing Eẓ Ḥayyim on a firm footing and extending its activities. His unconventional activities, however, gave rise to fears on the part of the conservative leadership that the institution might collapse and he was dismissed, a step which gave rise to an unusually violent controversy.
At first the curriculum was strictly confined to religious subjects, which led to considerable criticism, as a result of which two hours daily were devoted to writing and arithmetic, in 1867. The critics were still not satisfied. Eẓ Ḥayyim came tobe regarded as the symbol of old-fashioned conservatism and in response to its opposition to changes in the curriculum the first modern schools in Jerusalem were opened (Lemel, the Alliance Israélite, and Evelina de Rothschild, etc.).
World War I cut off the sources of income from abroad and the British occupation in 1917 found the institution in a perilous state. Funds from the United States were in the hands of the Zionists, who opposed its educational approach in principle. The Committee of Delegates, which had control of the distribution of aid to the Jews of Ereẓ Israel, applied great pressure on Eẓ Ḥayyim to institute comprehensive reforms in methods and curriculum, including Hebrew as the language of instruction. The pressure was resisted, and after much effort Eẓ Ḥayyim succeeded in establishing anew its connections with the Diaspora, thus ensuring its continuation.
Up to and including the beginning of the Mandatory period Eẓ Ḥayyim was one of the three institutions which had the deciding voice in the election of the leadership of the old yishuv, the other two being the Kolelim Committee and the Bikkur Ḥolim Hospital. In 1919 it was one of the deciding factors in the election of Rabbi A.I. *Kook as chief rabbi of Jerusalem.
During the Mandatory period the prestige of Eẓ Ḥayyimdiminished even among the old Ashkenazi yishuv with the founding of new schools and yeshivot. Nevertheless the energetic leadership of R. Jehiel Michel *Tykocinski ensured not only its survival but even its expansion. In 1929 its center moved to a new and spacious building adjacent to the Maḥaneh Yehudah market while branches were established in all the old suburbs of Jerusalem.
Despite its curriculum certain changes have taken place, the most outstanding of which is the use of Hebrew in the branches in non-religious subjects, although in the main building Yiddish is still the language of instruction even in non-religious subjects.
As of June 2005, Eẓ Ḥayyim had some 1,000 pupils, ages three to seventeen. Located on three campuses around Jerusalem, including the original building near the Maḥhaneh Yehudah market, Eẓ Ḥayyim also had a kolel of approximately 150 young married men (avrekhim) who received financial support. It had a dining room, an aid fund for the needy, and a library of some 20,000 volumes.
J.M. Tykocinski, in: Lu'aḥ Ereẓ Yisrael, 9 (1904), 121–67; A.R. Malachi, in: Talpiyyot 9, nos. 1–2 (1965).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.