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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 5 The Tempering of Norwood Institutionalism: The ‘Good Enough’ Residential Model

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CHAPTER 5

The Tempering of Norwood Institutionalism: The ‘Good Enough’ Residential Model

The psychologist Donald Winnicott coined the phrase ‘good enough parenting’ to refer to what is good enough in meeting the needs of the child – that is, a parent who raises their child well.1 The ‘Good Enough’ residential model is derived from this idea and applied to the child caring institution. However, it can never be quite as satisfactory as the parent ‘because of the intensity of our emotional involvement in and with our child’. The crucial characteristic of the parents is their partiality for the individual child.2 Maurice Levinson, who was at Norwood in the twenties, recalled that he thought himself lucky to get in. ‘Without the orphanage to help she (his mother) said they (the four children) would starve.’ Though the regime was totalitarian it was better than ‘the many children who haven’t got even a crust of bread to eat and yet because they have a father and mother they can’t get into an orphanage’. The life-saving refuge of the institution was preferable to inadequacy of parental support and provided an affirmation of the institution. However, he recalled that he left Norwood with ‘the mark of Cain on my forehead in the form of an orphanage upbringing’. His main quarrel with Norwood was that ‘it took away my individuality. ← 141 | 142 → I had been taught to act and think under compulsion’.3 Material inadequacy dictated his stay in Norwood but...

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