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Care and Conflict

The Story of the Jewish Orphanage at Norwood

Lawrence Cohen

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.
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Chapter 2 What’s in a Name? The Changing Titles of Norwood

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CHAPTER 2

What’s in a Name? The Changing Titles of Norwood

The name of the institution by which Norwood, the Jewish children’s orphanage in south London, was known changed three times in its eighty-five-year history. In 1876 the new institution was called the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum; the title was based on the names of the two foundation charities, the Jews’ Hospital and the Jews’ Orphan Asylum. The chapter includes the two foundation bodies and other associated Jewish charities such as the Jewish Board of Guardians. In 1928 the name was changed to the Jewish Orphanage, and in 1956 the institution was renamed for a third time becoming the Norwood Home for Jewish Children. The evolution in the changing institutional content of the titles designated by the last word – Hospital, Asylum, Orphanage and Home – provides the chronological basis for the theme of ‘What’s in a Name?’

The meaning attached to each term also supports a sociological framework for understanding the chronological development. ‘The old Institutions cling doggedly to their original names’ was the wry comment of one writer on the entrenched conservatism of some Jewish institutions; Norwood was no exception.1 Their sociolinguistic importance is that ‘names are not words attached only to the skin’ of a body, personal or institutional, but are in themselves an accumulation of ‘internal forces’ that defined the bearer and deprivation of which might damage their ‘personality’.2 Contestation over name changes and the longevity of...

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