Levi Eshkoll is born in Czarist Russia in the shtetl of Oratov, which is in modern day Ukraine. His mother, Dvora comes from a family of Hasidic Jews, while his father, Joseph Shkolnik, is from a “Lithuanian” background, which often opposes Hasidism. Joseph is a farmer and merchant. He trades all he produces and also owns a flour mill. Eshkoll is the second of nine children. He is educated at a traditional Jewish primary school but is refused acceptance to the public high school because of his religion. Instead he attends the Hebrew Gymnasium in Vilna. When his parents offer to support him in highschool he replies:
Only if I come empty-handed will these hands be ready to work.