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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 6 Counter-institutionalism in Anglo-Jewry

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CHAPTER 6

Counter-institutionalism in Anglo-Jewry

This chapter relies on sources recorded by children who attended to institutions, both Norwood and others, including autobiographies, transcripts of interviews and articles published in the Norwood Old Scholars’ Association Newsletter. Without this source a history of counter-institutionalism and the Norwood Rebellion would not have been possible. The use of oral history is supplemented by reference to sources that place it in a wider context, one that allows the accounts to contribute to the story of Norwood. The role of myths in life stories is one such context that Samuel and Thompson’s The Myths We Live By exposes. The psychology of memory, a relevant topic for the oral historian, is one that Sabbagh in Remembering Our Childhood makes clear with its limitations. In Goffman’s Asylums the authoritarian nature of the total institution provides an understanding into the character of Norwood and the reaction of the children. Though there is little written on the theme of counter-culture of institutions, Humphries’ Hooligans or Rebels? reveals the resistance of children to agencies of control in schools and reformatories. Information in official documents such as annual reports and committee minutes are referred to but are necessarily limited in extent.1

The institutional environment created three issues that were not anticipated when the asylum was established – an illiberal system of regimentation, a narrowing influence that coloured institutional life with a monotonous grey existence and an emotional stunting of the children ← 181 | 182...

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