ARCADIA - SOUTH AFRICAN JEWISH ORPHANAGE– 1899-2009
Arcadia Jewish Children’s Home still exists in Sandringham, Johannesburg
looking after Jewish children and needs our support

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HISTORY of ARCADIA - The South African Jewish Orphanage

Arcadia owes its establishment to the Jewish Ladies’ Communal League, which in 1899 began its activities among the small Jewish community, which had ventured to Johannesburg. In the course of its work in looking after the welfare of the Jewish school children, the Committee encountered cases of orphans in need. To provide for these waifs a house was rented in Pretoria Street, corner of Twist Street, and was opened on 18th August 1903. Here, then, was the beginning of the community’s efforts to provide for it’s fatherless. There were but eight children accommodated at that time.

However, the number of Jewish children in need of home and shelter gradually grew, and soon a larger house was rented in Esselen Street. In 1906 the first Jewish Orphanage was established in Benbow Street, Kensington, with accommodation for 32 children but the numbers of children in need continued to grow and soon out grew the available accommodation.

In 1921 the SA Jewish Orphanage was established as a separate entity and it soon became apparent that further expansion was essential. With the growth of the South African Jewish community applications for admission had increased considerably, but owing to limited accommodation numerous deserving cases had to be refused. This fact, coupled with the advent of the Russian pogrom orphans (Ochberg Children) brought out by the SA Jewish Relief, Reconstruction and Orphans Fund, made it imperative to acquire much larger premises.

The Jewish community responded whole-heartedly in support of the movement and in 1923 “Arcadia”, 22 Oxford Road, Parktown, was purchased at a cost of £30,000. The SA Jewish Relief, Reconstruction and Orphans Fund agreed to contribute £12,500 towards the purchase price, in consideration of the Orphanage taking charge of the pogrom children. A home had been acquired which will ever be a monument to Jewish liberality, and on the 18th July, 1923, “Arcadia” was opened by the then Prime Minister, General the Rt Hon. JC Smuts.

In 1923 the Orphanage accommodated 142 children, including the 61 pogrom orphans (Ochberg Children). The number of children in care increased over the years and peaked at 400 in 1939 with the greatest number of children in care during the war years 1939-1945.

The number of children actually in residence in Arcadia decreased gradually from an average of 107 in the 1950s, to 74 in the 1960s, 36 in the 1970s, 30 in the 1980s and steadied out around the 25 mark thereafter.

The number of “children in need and never in Arcadia” climbed, as the philosophy of childcare changed and it was deemed to be more beneficial to support the children in their family environment. The number of these children increased from 62 in 1950, to 127 in 1963 but generally ranged between the 80-120 children from 1960 to 1993 when the number shot up from 147 to 264 in 2001.

In 1996 because of the low number of children in residence and the high cost of maintenance of the Arcadia estate “Villa Arcadia” was put up for sale. At the same time forward planning commenced to relocate the children residents of Arcadia into the community. In 2001 two adjoining houses in Raedene were acquired for a new Arcadia and plans were afoot to make alterations to improve the suitability of the houses.

In March 2002 the Johannesburg Jewish Helping Hand – the Chevrah Kadisha - took over the running of Arcadia and in May 2002 the children were relocated to Sandringham where there are currently approximately 20 children living in residence – almost all of whom are statutory placements.

Anyone who might want more information about the book please contact David Sandler by email sedsand@ca.com.au