South Africa: Seeking Ochberg Orphan descendants

Genealogists are detectives, so here’s a case many of us might be able to help solve.

David Solly Sandler of Australia is seeking 2,000 South Africans – the descendants of 60 Ukrainian war and pogrom orphans, known as Ochberg’s Orphans.

Writes David: 

In 1921, Isaac Ochberg, representative of the South African Jewish Community, travelled to Poland and the Ukraine and brought back with him to Cape Town 167 “Russian, Ukraine and Polish War and Pogrom Orphans” plus 14 “attendants and nurses,” mainly older siblings.

Half the children were placed in the care of the Cape Jewish Orphanage (later Oranjia) and half went to Johannesburg, under the care of the South African Jewish Orphanage (later Arcadia). Many children were adopted by Jewish community members, who contributed generously to a fund to bring the children to South Africa and care for them.

What’s David’s connection to Arcadia? Born in 1952, David grew up from age 3-17 at Arcadia, the South African Jewish Orphanage in Sandringham, Johannesburg. Now a semi-retired chartered accountant, he lives in Western Australia and has completed two books on Arcadia (see below for more information). For the history of the orphanage – established in 1899 – click here.

David is now in month 18 of the 27 months he’s allocated to record the life stories of the Ochberg Orphans. Of the 181 children, the stories of 90 have been recorded, contact has been made with another 30, but 60 still remain to be contacted.

How did he arrive at this number? David believes – for the so far “missing” 60 – that each child was born around 1910, married and had three children, nine grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, thus there should be more than the estimated 2,000 descendants cited above. Of course, no one knows for sure.

However, what is really important in this story is that many descendants might not know their connection to the Ochberg Orphans. The children did not often speak about this and many tried to hide the fact from their children because of the stigma of being an orphan.

One descendant wrote, says David:

Today, as for the general South African Jewish community, half  of the 2,000 descendants likely have left South Africa and now live around the world in Israel, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

“The general attitude of the community was that it was a mitzvah to have adopted one of those poor orphans, a good deed in a dark world, but you really wouldn’t want one of them to marry into your family, would you? After all, you knew nothing of their parents and extended family, their health history and their genetic background. This is a generalisation that isn’t true of all the adopters but it was certainly true of a fair number, nervous, insecure, only to do nothing that would jeopardise their increasing prosperity and emergent social solidity.”

Here’s the kicker – here are the names of these orphans. If you have someone with this name in your family tree, born c1910, there’s a chance you might be an Ochberg Orphan descendant, so read the list carefully and if you find a name of interest, contact David (email below).

— ELMAN Blume, ELMAN Jentl/ Izzy, ELSHTEIN Abo, ENGELMAN Jakob,
— JUDES Rubin,
— KAHAN Channe, KAHAN Golda, KAHAN Morduch/Mordche, KAHAN Shachna, KAILER Rywka, KAUFMAN Cypora, KAUFMAN Soloman/Shlama, KAWERBERG Mayer, KAWERBERG Mees/Moshe, KIGIELMAN Jacob, KNUBOVITZ Zlata, KREINDEL Rejsel, KRUGERr Rejsel, KRUGER Abram, KRUGER Jacob,
— NUDERMAN Gdalia,
— WEIDMAN Sheindel.

David adds that by the end of 2010, the lifestories of some 130 of the children will have been collected. They will be included in a book to be published and sold internationally with all proceeds going to Arcadia and Oranjia, as are the Arcadian Memory Books.

Readers who recognize names of interest should email David for more information, or if you are a descendant and want your family’s story included.

“100 Years of ARC Memories” (March 2006) celebrates the centenary book of Arcadia, formerly the South African Jewish Orphanage.

“More ARC Memories” (December 2008) is the sequel to the first volume, and includes 17 chapters on the Ochberg Children.

Together, the books total 1,100+ pages and hold the memories of more than 250 children. All proceeds go to the Arcadia Children’s Home that still exists and looks after children in need. By the end of 2009, some Rand 365,000 had been raised and the target is Rand 1 million. The set of two books costs $100 plus $10 shipping (click here for more information).

Museum of Family History – New in January

Steve Lasky of the virtual Museum of Family History updates what’s new at the site:

“The Jews of Asia.” Visit “Synagogues and Memorials.” See photographs from the 1990s-2000s) from Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; Bombay (Mumbai) and Cochin (Kochi) in India; Rangoon (Yangon) in Burma (Myanmar), Singapore, Tajikistan, Lebanon and Istanbul, Turkey (i.e. the Asian side of the Bosphorus).

— All sections of the 1905/1907 book “The Immigrant Jew in America” is now available. Read about Russian Jews in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

— Anti-Semitism in Europe – Letters from Leipzig: Within six years before the start of WWII, non-Jewish German woman named Ilse Gerngrofs wrote four letters to a Jewish friend in New Zealand (not knowing she was Jewish). They serve as an example of pre- and post-Hitler era anti-Semitic sentiments that existed in Germany. Although ofensive, they are worth reading.

Synagogues of Europe: Greece: Athens, Corfu, Rhodes and Thesssalonika; Spain: Madrin and Toledo; Ukraine: Husiatyn and Zastavna.

Newspaper Archives: More than 100 articles are in the archives. More than two dozen were published (1880s-1906) about the Lower East Side (Manhattan). Learn what it was like a century ago. There are two 1903 film clips showing street scenes.

Pogroms: A reminder about the table of 1903-1906 pogroms (some 250 towns and cities), and the introduction and commentary about this history in the American Jewish Year Book (1906-7).

Questions about any material? Write to Steve.

Take some time to explore the site, and sign up for email alerts for his blog.

Pogroms: 250 events 1903-1905

We’ve all heard the stories of our immigrant ancestors. Their memories included their personal experiences of pogroms, raids and riots committed against Jewish residents of towns and villages across Europe.

My great-grandmother Riva BANK TALALAI (Tollin) described her frightening nights as she and her two children (toddler Leib and infant Chaya Feige) hid in church basements during these events as they made their way to safety to the boat for America.

She knew that if either child had cried out, the others in hiding would have had no compunction about smothering them to prevent the refugees from being discovered.

Fortunately, they did not cry. The family made it to the boat to join her husband and the children’s father, Aron Peretz TALALAI (Tollin) in Newark, New Jersey.

In 1904, the following pogroms occurred in and around Mogilev, Belarus, which surely impacted our TALALAI family in the city and in area towns and villages.

On October 24, 1904, there were 14,000 Jews in a population of 22,093 in Mogilev; 120 Jews were injured; the chief of police had earlier said that a riot would occur and that Jews would not be protected. On the same day, in a place not far north of the city, called Gorki (where other Talalai relatives lived), some 69 shops were looted and demolished with a loss of 200,000 rubles.

A few days later, on October 27, there were a series of attacks on shtetls in the area: Amtchislav, Bykhova and Bunitchi (northeast of Vorotinschtina and Zaverezhye, where many Talalai had lived since the 1830s, about 12 miles south-southwest of Mogilev) Sielzi, Sukhany, Tchausy (where Talalai relatives lived), Tcherikov and Juravitch.

The table showed that in Bykhova, where Jews were 3,172 in a population of 6,536, all the Jewish shops and stalls were destroyed, with an estimate of 200,000 rubles lost. Army reservists caused the riots. In Tchausy (Chausy, Chaus), Jews numbered 3,000 of the 5,550 residents.

Unfortunately, I never heard my great-grandmother mention the towns in which she hid with the children. But I do know where relatives lived.

I know from other relatives – who stayed in Mogilev until immigrating in the 1980s and later – that the Gorki survivors moved into Mogilev soon after that pogrom, as did the Tchausy relatives (including a chief rabbi and religious court judge).

Steve Lasky at the Museum of Family History has announced a new report and table of pogroms committed 1903-1905.

The report was published in the American Jewish Year Book (Vol. 8, 1906-1907), by the American Jewish Committee. If you have not seen these volumes, do try to access them. They contain much information about Jewish communities around the world and in the US.

The table includes more than 250 European towns and cities where pogroms occurred from 1903-1906. There is a supplementary table of pogroms in other places in November 1905.

Comments sometimes include damage and other remarks about each event, and the table includes the date, geographical location, sometimes the Jewish and general population at each place.

There is a report of the Duma Commission of the Bialystok Massacre in June 1906 – it was published in the London Jewish Chronicle (July 13,1906) – providing many details of what happened. If your family had a connection to Bialystok – as did some of my family – read the report to see if any names are listed.

Read about the Duma debates as the report was presented, as well as the US Congress resolutions proposed and passed (1905-6).

The Museum’s information is courtesy of the American Jewish Committee Archives. Access all this information here.