Remembering Isaac Ochberg

South African descendants of 'Ochberg's Orphans' plant trees at the Ochberg Lookut in Ramat Menashe.

May 26, 2016 15:01
1 minute read.
Cissy Harris

Cissy Harris,the last surviving 'Ochberg Orphan', combined tree planting with an annual visit to the Ochberg Lookout.. (photo credit: KKL-JNF)

Some 50 South Africans, the descendants of the orphans saved by Isaac Ochberg from the after-effects of World War I, were at her side on May 18th, 2016, as they walked through the picturesque fields of Ramat Menashe to the lookout point erected by KKL-JNF in their rescuer’s memory. This moving event on the occasion of the 98th birthday Cissy Harris, the last surviving 'Ochberg Orphan', combined tree planting with an annual visit to the Ochberg Lookout.

Isaac Ochberg was born in 1878 in Uman, Ukraine. At age 17, he left his country and moved to South Africa, where his business thrived. In 1921 he felt an awakening of Jewish sentiment. In that year, rumors circulated about thousands of orphaned children left in Eastern Europe, the result of hunger, disease and pogroms against Jews in the aftermath of World War I. Ochberg decided to take action. He left for Eastern Europe, and went from village to village. With the South African government's permission, he returned several months later to Cape Town with 187 young orphans.

There, he built there orphanages and made sure that 'his children' received a home and an education. Some of the children were adopted by Jewish families in Cape Town and Johannesburg. In so doing, Ochberg provided these children with a second opportunity in life. Beyond having a warm Jewish heart, Ochberg was also a keen Zionist, who even participated as a delegate to the 16th Zionist Congress held in Zurich in 1929.

Unfortunately, Ochberg came to a premature end, dying in 1937 at the age of 41. He left 250,000 pounds sterling to KKL-JNF in his will – a fortune in those days. This was the greatest money contribution ever received by KKL-JNF from a single person. With this deed, Ochberg expressed his belief in salvation and an end of suffering for the People of Israel, in the Land of Israel.

Read more about the tree planting ceremony at the Ochberg Lookout

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