The Cape Jewish Orphanage (7): How deep was the valley?

The following comment appears in the Orphanage principal’s notes at the bottom of Rachel’s 1951 school report (from the Orphanage archives).  Rachel was admitted  to the Orphanage in April 1951, together with Benny, who was readmitted for the second time:

“Very weedy and ill-nourished. People who are totally unable to care for their numerous progeny. We had five of their offspring until 1949. The committee have definitely decided that the parents only may visit on Sundays but may not take them out to their home.”

The principal’s thoughts about Rachel and benny are clear. I am not sure what the principal thought about the home visits of the five of us who were there from 1945 to 1949 (Benny, myself, Gerry, Leslie and Minnie), but his notes above about Benny and Rachel are a clear indication. We might have made a few periodical home visits while at the Orphanage. I have no memory of these except the one visit for the family photo shoot. The most memorable and happiest day of my young life. Here are the Principal’s notes on Benny, when he was readmitted for the second time in 1951:

“Rough and uncouth. Needs steady discipline. A lot of good in him if he is carefully watched.”

A typical boy – noise with dirt on.

I found  one document about me: my medical record for admission dated 22 March 45. (I left the orphanage for good at the end of 1949): Physical condition: normal. Mental condition: normal. Condition of skin: verminous. Comment: “This child has lice in the hair and should be isolated.” I wonder what is worse for Jew? A verminous Jew or a Jew who believes in Yeshua HaMashiach.

The Jewish community did indeed “lavish” us with “loving care” (Rabbi Abrahams earlier). What would have happened if we had remained in our “broken” home. The Orphanage started out as a home for orphans, but ended up as a refuge for children from broken homes. Here is Fanny Lockitch again (whom I quoted earlier):

“Well we were orphans who had an early foundation of love. But I must say today it’s mostly from broken homes. I mean we are told inaccurately that nothing can replace parental love. It is true, nothing can replace parental love that is best, but there are many broken homes where children are neglected, overlooked, unwanted and these children find in Oranjia the love and understanding they have never known.”

How broken was my home? Here are two letters (from the Orphanage archives) writtten to the Orphanage by the  family doctor, Dr A. J. Gans. The first letter is an application for admission to the Orphanage of five of the Gamaroffs: Benny Raphael, Gerry, Minnie and Leslie.

7 March 1945

This is to certify that Mrs Gamaroff is expecting her tenth child and she is in bad health and is also suffering from a nervous breakdown. She is unable to attend to her children.

The second letter is six years later as is regard to an application for admission to Orphanage of Rachel (for the first time, and Benny and Gerry (for the second time).

5 April 1951

This is to certify that Mrs Gamaroff is in very bad health and finds it impossible to look after her home and the childlren.

When mother breaks, the home breaks. But the mezuzah was in the slanting position!

Here is another excerpt from Professor Chief Rabbi Abrahams’ message (quoted earlier  The Cape Jewish Orphanage (5) – Chief Rabbi Abrahams and Dr Verwoerd: the not-so-odd couple): “it is eloquence of the Jewish spirit and influence of Oranjia that throughout the fifty years, very few of our children have gone astray” (my emphasis).

If Professor Abrahams  believed the Jewish Bible, he would have known that “all of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way (Isaiah 53:6).” “Children gone astray” for Professor Abrahams – and most people – means children who have “gone off the rails”; who have become a burden or a threat to society. My elder brother (by 11 months) Gerry was judged to be one of these strays. He deserves a chapter of his own.

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