Education on The Rockaways

The Rockaways
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Compiled by Barbara Ellman

Created: Apr, 2014
Updated Apr 2020

Copyright © 2014 Barbara Ellman

Hebrew Institute of Long Island

Known by its initials HILI (Pronounced High-Lie)


One of the first Jewish day school in Queens and in Long Island was founded in 1937 by Mr. Joseph Yurkowitz (and others) under the name “the Yeshiva of the Rockaways.”

HILI’s first home was in the women’s section (i.e., the balcony) of Congregation Anshei Sfard, 208 B. 75th Street, in Arverne.

The founding Hebrew principal of HILI was Rabbi Mordechai Shuchatowitz, who also served as rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Edgemere.  The first principal of the secular studies department was Lawrence Shapiro. Rabbi Shuchatowitz was succeeded by Dr. Irving Agus (1946-7), who was succeeded by Rabbi Harold I. Leiman, who served as Principal and Dean from 1948-1960 and 1971-73.

In 1939, the school moved to Far Rockaway, where it acquired the building of a former care center for children of ill mothers called “the Children’s Haven” on Beach 19th Street. The name of the school was changed to the “Hebrew Institute of Long Island.”

Roche Estate


The first academic year in the new building under the new name was 1939-40.  In 1952-3, HILI acquired the neighboring Roche estate, and in September 1953 classes convened for the first time in the C, D, and E buildings (B being reserved for the administration building) on Seagirt Boulevard. 

HILI's high school was founded in 1951-2 (its first academic year) and was housed on the top floor of the old Congregation Shaarey Tefilla building on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway.  It would later move into the E building on the new campus.

Due largely to demographic changes in Far Rockaway, HILI merged with the Hillel School in Lawrence in 1978 forming a new school called the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR).

The four white buildings at the left, and the extensive grounds behind them, form the Edward Roche estate.  

These four white buildings became the B (administration), C (elementary school), D (middle school), and E (high school) buildings of HILI. In the mornings (for high school level Torah study), boys classes convened in the D building and girls classes convened in the E building.   

Yeshiva Iyyun Ha-Talmud

The Commercial Cable Company building was constructed in 1912 on Beach 17th Street near New Haven Avenue. It processed telegrams to and from Europe.

In the 1960’s it was transformed into an advanced talmudical institute when it was acquired by Yeshiva Iyyun Ha-Talmud, under the leadership of Rabbi
Abba Berman, formerly maggid shi’ur at the Mirrer Yeshiva in New York.

The Yeshiva ultimately made its way to Jerusalem, and in 1985 the building was torn down.

Jewish Center School of Congregation Shaaray Tefila of Far Rockaway

In 1930, Rabbi Irving Miller, a leading American Zionist, founder the Jewish Center School of Congregation Shaaray Tefila, on of the first schools in the United States to integrate general and Jewish studies into a single educational experience.  Rabbi Miller's school began with only a kindergarten and first grade.  Additional grades were added until a complete elementary school of eight grades was established in 1935.  The school received provisional charter in 1936.  The school moved to Woodmere in 1945 and was renamed the Brandeis School. In 1965, the school became a member of the Solomon Schechter Day School movement, the educational arm of the Conservative movement.

Rockaway Hebrew Schools (past and present)

  • Chaim Berlin High School
  • Mesivta Chaim Shlomo
  • Bais Yaakov Ateres Miriam
  • Beth El Day School
  • Bnois Bais Yaacov
  • Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR)
  • Ohab Zedek School
  • Tichon Meir Moshe
  • Sh'or Yoshuv Institute of Jewish Studies
  • Siach Yitzchok Elementary School for Boys
  • Torah Academy for Girls
  • Yeshiva Darchei Torah
  • Yeshiva of Far Rockaway
  • The Hebrew Institute of Long Island
  • West End Temple - Sinai Congregation
  • Yeshiva Bnei Torah
  • Yeshiva Iyyun Ha-Talmud

Far Rockaway High School


Far Rockaway High School was a public high school in New York City, at 8-21 Bay 25 Street in Far Rockaway.  The school was founded in 1897, with Sanford J. Ellsworth as principal for over 40 years.  Its alumni included three Nobel Prize laureates, the most Nobel laureates per New York City High Schools with the exception of the specialized Bronx Science.  The school stopped accepting students in 2008 as part of a planned closure because of declining grades. The doors closed on June 27, 2011.

The school's building was completed in 1929.

Notable Graduates from Far Rockaway High School

  • Richard Bey, radio and television talk show host.
  • Baruch Samuel Blumberg, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
  • Joyce Brothers, psychologist and advice columnist; graduated in 1943.
  • Richard Cohen, columnist for The Washington Post, class of 1958
  • Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics.
  • Joan Feynman, astrophysicist and NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal recipient in 2002
  • Carl Icahn, financier and billionaire.
  • Nancy Lieberman, basketball pioneer.
  • Bernard Madoff , convicted of large-scale fraud, founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
  • Burton Richter, winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics.

 Thanks to the Leiman Library for use of the postcards shown.

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