Cape Jewish Orphanage (8): And then there were fifteen

In the previous post, My Brother Gerry: The Dust of History, I mentioned that Gerry was removed to “Tenderden (Tender Den!), Place of Safety” Wynberg. What were his siblings doing in 1951  when Gerry came home after running away from Tenderden? These details were part of Gerry’s Probation Officer ‘s Report (6/7/51).

(Ages appear in brackets. The ages do not include months, so if, for example, Edie’s age is given as 26, she might have been close to 27).

1. Rachel (1945), age 5 years, admitted for the first time to the Cape Jewish Orphanage. (Rachel was 5 years 11 months old).

2. Benny (1943), age 8 years, admitted to the Cape Jewish Orphanage (for a second time); in Grade 4.

3. Raphael  (1941), age 9 years, at boarding school in Wellington (8 miles from Paarl), in Std 3 (Grade 5). I (I was 8 years 11 months old).

4. Jerry (1940),  age 10 years, in Place of Safety, Tenderden.

5. Sammy (1938), age 12 years, staying with parents, and  at Claremont public school in Standard 4 (Grade 6).

6. Minnie (1934), 16 years old, staying with parents.

7.  Leslie  (1933), age 17 years, died in 1949 in Groote Schuur Hospital, Observatory, Cape Town.

6.  Joe (1931), 19 years old, working in a shoe store in Maitland, staying with his parents.

9. Sonia (1927),  23 years old, married to Israel Hurwitz, living in Camps Bay.

10. Edie (1926), 24 years old, married to Aaron Hayman, living in Maitland.

Sammy at 12 years of age was only in Grade 6. I was in Grade 5 at 9 years old. He must have started school later than I did at the Orphanage. He stayed at home, and failed a grade (in those days, there wasn’t automatic promotion). Sammy never went to the Orphanage. He went to Claremont Junior School. When Sammy was 13 he went to Wynberg Boys High school. He was there until Grade 9. After spending two years at boarding school in Wellington, I came home for three years. I entered Wynberg Junior School in Grade 7 (1953). Sammy left school in Grade 9 and joined my father’s bottle-bag-bone-scrap metal business. The final straw for Sammy was when “Bob”, his bookkeeping teacher  gave him a couple of hundred lines as punishment. My father now had a son to work in “the business”. The “business” is another chapter.

Here is the Probation Officer’s evaluation of my father and mother in his 1951 Report:

The father:

“Issie Gamaroff, aged 49 years. He is employed as a storeman at Wingfield Airport at a salary of ₤60 per month. He maintains a good standard of living and is very strict in his attitude towards his children. Mr Gamaroff is a man of temperate habits and regular worker.

The mother:

Fanny Gamaroff (nee Gilinsky) is 44 years old and attends to the household. She is a cripple. The mother creates a very favourable impression and shows a keen interest in her children’s well-being. She is very concerned about Gerry and has expressed with tears her disappointment in his conduct.

Compare the Probation Officer’s judgment of my parents in his report with the report of someone in authority at the Cape Jewish Orphanage. Both reports were written within months of each other in 1951. The Orphanage official who wrote it is now  dead. Nothing good can come out of revealing his name. Far be it from me to judge his state of mind at the moment of writing it, or afterwards. It does hurt though.

Orphanage description of Izzy and Fanny on the Occasion of Rachel’s Admission to the Orphanage 20 April 1951

The Orphanage official said that Rachel was very weedy and ill-nourished. My parents were described as people who have had 14 or 15 children, and  are so brutish and self-centred that they are totally unable to care for their numerous progeny. The principal went on to say that the Orphanage had five of the Gamaroff offspring until 1949. The committee has definitely decided that the parents only may visit Rachel and Benny on Sundays but may not take them out to their home.

Izzy and Fanny didn’t have 15, neither 14, neither 13, neither 12, neither 11 but 10 children. The official couldn’t suppress his contempt for the “brutish” nature of my parents unbridled lust for life. Many in the Western world would sympathise with the Orphanage official’s comments, especially if they are not Jews, especially not Torah Jews, that is,  Jews who believe that the Bible comes from Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit of God). But then my parents weren’t Torah Jews. But I am:  in the way that Yeshua was. But, there is more to it, of course. I wince because it is my parents who were the brunt of these brutish comments. The Orphanage official was living under a cloud of ignorance, of unknowing. I am reading the “Cloud of unknowing” (author unknown, which is not the reason for the title), where “unknowing” means something very different to ignorance. “The cloud of unknowing” is a book of contemplation about that cloud within which unites one to God. The main reason I mention the book is what I read about lust in Chapter 10, “How a man shall know when his thoughts are sinful; of the difference between mortal and venial sins.” Lust is the last (but not least) mortal sin mentioned on the author’s list. The author defines lust as “the desire for carnal indulgence or for the favour and flattery of others.”  What is interesting about this definition of lust is that it is not only defined in the expected way of unbridled sexual appetite, but also includes the desire for favour and flattery. Izzy seemed to be a self-made man – at least from the time he allegedly stole the bottle business from his stepmother when his father died. My view of Izzy was that he didn’t “lust” for favour, but rather dished it out. With regard to flattery, he loved to be appreciated for his violin playing. As his business began to prosper – after many years of financial tsorres – he became a self-sufficient man. As for confessed carnal lusts? He did enjoy a movie with – as he described (confessed?) to me –  “dancing girls.”

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