Yesha’ayahu Vinograd’s great grandfather made Aliyah with his family from Pinsk. He lived in Safed and then went to Jerusalem to found a Yeshiva there, while a family member remained in Russia to raise money for the Yeshiva. In 1883 they founded the “Torat Hayim” Yeshiva in Jerusalem, which quickly had three hundred students learning Torah, competing with the Lithuanian Yeshiva “Etz Hayim”. The Yeshiva wandered from one synagogue to another in the Old City, until it finally moved to its own building, not far from the Western Wall.
After decades of activity, as the security situation deteriorated in the wake of the 1929 riots and the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt, many students abandoned the Yeshiva. The Yeshiva was forced to relocate, and the Torah scrolls were deposited for safekeeping in different synagogues around Israel. The Vinograd family came to an agreement with an Arab policeman living nearby – he leased the former Yeshiva building and rented it out. The policeman also kept the few scriptures left in the Yeshiva and the disassembled Torah ark in a closed room. Their agreement lasted through the years, until after the Six Day War when the Vinograd family returned to the Old City. Grateful, they arranged for a special certificate of approval for the policeman and his family to continue to live in their house while other Arabs who settled in Jewish houses were forced to leave.
After so many years, the old Yeshiva buildings were in poor condition, and the family applied to the government for help in recovering and renovating the buildings but did not receive a response. Finally they cleaned, organized and renovated the buildings themselves, took the holy scriptures out of the closed room and put them back into the rebuilt Torah ark. The Yeshiva was ready to renew its days of glory.
During the High Holidays of 1967 Vinograd invited a group of men known as “Jerusalem’s Liberators” who prayed near the Western Wall, to pray in the Yeshiva. Some of those members still pray in the “minyan” there today. Later, when Ultra-Orthodox Yeshiva students were looking for a safe place near the Western Wall to found a Yeshiva they applied to Vinograd, and on the site where the old “Torat Hayim” Yeshiva used to be, they founded the “Ateret Kohanim” Yeshiva, which is there today.