Care and Conflict

The Story of the Jewish Orphanage at Norwood

by Lawrence Cohen (Author)
©2014 Monographs XII, 306 Pages


Norwood, an Anglo-Jewish childcare institution founded in the late nineteenth century, was one of several hundred such institutions in the UK, but the only Jewish one. Throughout its history, Norwood had the unusual task of adapting its childcare approach to both British and Jewish concerns. This book offers a unique study of one residential child institution within the broader British context, tracing the development of the institution and changing concepts of childcare over nearly one hundred years.
The story of Norwood is told chronologically, beginning with its origins in the early nineteenth century and its growth before the First World War. The inter-war years saw a period of stagnation that paved the way for the post-war revolution in institutional childcare, the demise of the orphanage idea and, with it, the demolition of Norwood. The book provides a narrative of the rise and fall of the childcare institution as much as the story of Norwood.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Note on Oral Sources
  • Chapter 1 A Brief History of Norwood
  • An Introduction to the History of Norwood
  • Norwood as an Educational Institution
  • Norwood’s Aftercare System
  • Norwood’s Religious Role as a Jewish Institution
  • Norwood’s Anglicizing Role
  • Norwood as a Denominational Institution
  • Norwood as a Welfare Institution and the Changing Construction of Childhood
  • The Jewishness of Norwood
  • Norwood as a Residential Institution
  • An Important Gap in the History of Institutional Life
  • The Institutional Theme
  • Chapter 2 What’s in a Name? The Changing Titles of Norwood
  • Foundation Charities
  • Jews’ Hospital
  • Jews’ Orphan Asylum
  • Jewish Board of Guardians
  • Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum
  • Jewish Orphanage
  • Norwood Home for Jewish Children
  • Chapter 3 The Rise of Norwood Institutionalism: The Residential Model Adopted
  • The Landscape of Institutionalism – The Building and Grounds at Norwood
  • The Rise of the Institutional Model – The Jewish Template
  • The Institutional Model and Amalgamation
  • The Extension of the Institution
  • The Final Expansion – The Gabriel Home
  • Chapter 4 The Growth of Norwood Institutionalism: The Residential Model under Attack
  • Disillusionment with the Regulated Institution
  • The Growth of the Institution
  • The Institution is under Attack
  • Transformation of the Institution
  • Chapter 5 The Tempering of Norwood Institutionalism: The ‘Good Enough’ Residential Model
  • Myer Kaye’s Liberal Reforms
  • The Setback to Structural Reform
  • The Progressiveness of Jewish Orphanages in America
  • The ‘Child Developing’ Institution
  • Reluctant Reorganization at Norwood
  • Chapter 6 Counter-institutionalism in Anglo-Jewry
  • Adaptation to Institutional Life
  • The Norwood Rebellion
  • Taylor – An Unconventional Approach
  • Kam’s Rebellion
  • The Great Rebellion
  • The Kahn Rebellion
  • The Norwood Rebellion
  • Resistance to Corporal Punishment
  • Memory as a Historical Source
  • Chapter 7 The End of Institutionalism: Revolution at Norwood
  • Progressive and Functional Theories
  • Institutionalism Exposed – Revelations by the Curtis Committee
  • Institutionalism Abandoned – Edward Conway’s Reforms
  • Norwood Judaism – Disenchantment and Transformation
  • Institutionalism Rejected – The Individuality of the Child is Paramount
  • Chapter 8 Historical Perspective on Norwood
  • Norwood Chronology
  • Beginnings of Norwood (1866–1875)
  • Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum (1876–1927)
  • The Jewish Orphanage (1928–1955)
  • The Norwood Home for Jewish Children (1956–1962)
  • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources – Archives
  • University of Southampton Archives
  • Norwood Child Care Archives
  • National Archives
  • London Jewish Museum Archives
  • Hertfordshire County Archives
  • Printed Sources
  • Newspapers and Newsletters
  • Official Publications and Surveys
  • Published Autobiographies
  • Secondary Sources
  • Books
  • Articles and Chapters
  • Unpublished Works
  • Glossary
  • Index

| vii →


1. Jews’ Hospital, Mile End Road. Reproduced with permission from the London Jewish Museum.

‘Emblazoned on the front of the building … was the title in English and below it was written “for the Aged Poor and for Education and Improvement of Youth”’. – Care and Conflict, pp. 38–9. 38

2. Main Building of the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum, c.1910. Reproduced with permission from the London Jewish Museum.

‘Norwood was something of a prestige community project … and its domestic gothic style smacked of architectural opulence’. – Care and Conflict, p. 25. 44

3. The Gabriel Home. Reproduced with permission from the London Jewish Museum.

‘The building of the … Gabriel Home indicated a still vigorous belief in the institution’. – Care and Conflict, p. 138. 102

4. Children in the Centenary Hall dining room, Norwood, c.1895. Reproduced with permission from the London Jewish Museum. See Care and Conflict, p. 154. 149

| ix →


The book is based on my PhD thesis. I wish to thank my supervisor, Tony Kushner at Southampton University, for the excellent help he has given me throughout my studentship. The student–supervisor relationship has benefited not just from the normal academic standards but has generated a fruitful cross-fertilization of ideas that enhanced the intellectual quality of my work on Norwood.

My special thanks go to Martin Rayment, responsible for the archives at Norwood. His help has been invaluable in making the archives freely available for my work.

I wish to thank the Norwood Old Scholars’ Association for access to its past newsletters. David Golding, a Norwood scholar, kindly let me have use of his autobiographical manuscript.

My thanks go to the archive staff at the Southampton University for allowing me access to the Norwood documents it holds. The London Jewish Museum is thanked for their assistance as well.

Thanks go to Trevor Maton who read through the manuscript pointing out errors in the text. Thanks to Janet Mitchell for her ongoing support and encouragement throughout.

Academic Studies Press has kindly allowed me to include ‘What’s in a Name?’, originally published in New Directions in Anglo-Jewish History (2010), as Chapter 2. I would also like to thank Taylor & Francis for allowing me to include ‘Counter-Institutionalism in Anglo-Jewry’ published in Jewish History and Culture, vol. 12 (2010), as Chapter 6.

Finally, I should acknowledge my own connection with Norwood. I was at Norwood in the 1950s, entering the infant home at the age of five and leaving the orphanage five years later to return home to my family.

| xi →


Ann. Reps Norwood Annual Reports
JBG Jewish Board of Guardians
JC Jewish Chronicle (newspaper)
JHOA, JH&OA Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum
JOA Jews’ Orphan Asylum
JW Jewish World (newspaper)
LCC London County Council

Note on Oral Sources

In the interests of confidentiality, contributors to the Newsletter and interviewees have been given an alpha-numeric reference.

| 1 →


A Brief History of Norwood

Oh! teach the orphan-boy to read

Or teach the orphan-girl to sew

TENNYSON, The Lady of Shallot

This book is the story of the Norwood Jewish Orphanage from its origins in the early nineteenth century to its closure in the early 1960s. The story that unfolds is one of achieving childcare and the conflicts that stood in its way. Norwood was the only institution of its kind that cared for orphaned Jewish children in the UK. Education, aftercare, religion and welfare were important concerns of the home and the institutional form was the means of achieving it. The compelling question asked in the course of the book is the following: was Norwood good enough for the children? For that reason its story deserves to be told both for Norwood and for other childcare institutions.

The story of Norwood, except for a brief celebratory account, has not been published before. The author has undertaken the task of writing a serious and critical account for a number of reasons. His personal association, as he was a child at Norwood, was one important reason. His two brothers and sister and, a generation earlier, three uncles went to Norwood. The institution was part of the Cohen family history. Even now the one surviving uncle plans to make a visit to see the Gabriel Home where he first entered it as a young boy, almost eighty years ago, in 1935. Beyond the authors’ personal connections, the recollections of other ‘scholars’ of Norwood over the last fifty years also contribute to the study. Collectively these recollections constitute a body of writings – an oral history of the institution – that is made use of in the book.

← 1 | 2 →

As the only Jewish childcare institution of its kind, Norwood’s story also makes a contribution to the corpus of material published on Anglo-Jewish history. ‘Whatever happened to British Jewish Studies?’, the question recently posed by historians working in this field, is here answered with the inclusion of Norwood as an essential part of that history in the annals of the community. The denominational Norwood necessarily confined its social purpose to Jewish children, but as a microcosm of the national situation, the story told is one that captures the wider narrative of the care of children in institutions in the UK and abroad.

Following a brief history of Norwood in Chapter 1, the second chapter, ‘What’s in a Name?’, traces the evolution of the institution through the names used: hospital, asylum, orphanage and home. The change in titles signifies the chronological development in childcare. Looking at the institution through the titles is widened to include the religious title of Norwood and the changing names of other charities. The chapter is an introduction to the history of an institution through the names.

Chapter 3, ‘The Rise of Norwood Institutionalism’, focuses on the evolution of the Norwood residential model. The history is split into three phases, the first one being the expansion phase before the First World War. Its features include the environmental and architectural landscape of institutionalism, the adaptation of the institutional model as a Jewish template, the struggle within the Anglo-Jewish community to amalgamate the foundation institutions and the expansion following the success of amalgamation. What stands out in this period was the compelling solution the institution provided for the destitute child in an era when the social consciousness of the child’s plight touched the public consciousness in a practical way.

In Chapter 4, ‘The Growth of Norwood Institutionalism’, the first phase is seen in the context of the wider national and international situation. The national context in the UK was the use of the institution in the care of the destitute child under the Poor Law and by the voluntary Christian charities. The international context is seen in the influence of new continental ideas in the form of the cottage home and the rise of counter-institutionalism in America. The changes taking place increasingly highlighted the disadvantages of the institution as a solution but the Norwood approach was to expand the institution as the community solution.

← 2 | 3 →

Chapter 5, ‘The Tempering of Norwood Institutionalism’, covers the second phase of the Norwood story and introduces the notion of the ‘good enough’ institution. This inter-war phase is marked by the implementation of a number of reforms to improve the lives of the children but also tempered by the absence of structural change to cope with the disadvantages of institutional living. The contrast is made with forward-thinking changes in some American Jewish orphanages.

Chapter 6, ‘Counter-institutionalism in Anglo-Jewry’, makes use of the recollections of scholars on the institutional life at Norwood. The children in unofficial ways sought to combat institutionalism and created a counter-culture opposed to it. Open group hostility broke out in various forms and the Norwood Rebellion is seen as a particular example. The recollections stress the value of memory as a source for counter-institutional history and enrich the Norwood story. The third and final phase is told in Chapter 7, ‘The End of Institutionalism’. What has emerged from the Norwood story on the first two phases is a historical perspective on the progressive and functional models of the residential institution. Applied to Norwood it is evidenced in the growth of the institution as a progressive move in the earlier period and the subsequent accommodation to the institution as an ongoing and acceptable solution. The conclusion reached in the third phase in the post-war period was ‘revolution at Norwood’ with the abandonment of the institutional model and replacement by the family home model.

An Introduction to the History of Norwood

The orphanage was purposely sited in the fashionable and healthy London suburb of West Norwood, far removed from ‘the clutter and confusion’ of the East End.1 It was created by the Anglo-Jewish establishment as a result of the amalgamation of two foundation charities, the Jews’ Hospital and ← 3 | 4 → Jews’ Orphan Asylum, in 1876 to form the conjoint Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum.

Norwood was founded as part of the child-saving movement of the 1860s and 1870s. It was missionary inspired and the institution of the orphanage was a type of ‘rescue home’ for lost souls. The movement inspired the establishment of a number of religious voluntary childcare societies. The best known of these were the Methodists’ National Children’s Home founded in 1869, Dr Barnardo’s in 1870 and the Church of England’s Waifs and Strays Society founded in 1881. In the nineteenth century there was the belief in the power of reform through education by ‘removal’ to a residential setting for a better life.2 The missionary motivation of evangelical Christians contrasted with the Jewish approach of a ‘child organization movement’, but both movements had in common placing children in orphanages for the purpose of ‘saving kids from evil – moral, physical and religious’. However, the Jewish movement differed in being more concerned that ‘the slippery slope to a life of crime or pauperism would tarnish the reputation of the community and reduce the size of an already small community’ than concern about lost souls.3

From the late eighteenth century Jewish communal leaders established a network of charitable institutions to provide assistance to the poor. Nevertheless, as charity schemes multiplied concern was expressed in the way they operated. Growing discontent with the state of Jewish charity and the preference to treat poverty internally underpinned the charity organization movement in the Jewish community.4 Organization meant applying scientific principles of charity in the form of amalgamation of existing charities with similar functions. One consequence was that the community established their own asylum at Norwood in 1876.


XII, 306
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2014 (August)
childcare revolution history
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2014. XII, 306 pp. 4 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Lawrence Cohen (Author)

Lawrence Cohen holds a PhD in Jewish History and Culture from Southampton University.


Title: Care and Conflict
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