NORDEN, family of South African pioneers (mid-19th century), consisting of five brothers – Benjamin, Joshua Davis, Marcus, Samuel, and Harry. They were among the 18 Jewish members of the party of settlers sent out by the British government in 1820 to the turbulent frontier of the eastern Cape Colony. The 1820 settlers endured great privations in a wild country exposed to depredations by African tribesmen. After some years many of them, including the Nordens, settled the small towns which had sprung up. BENJAMIN NORDEN (1798–1876), a man of adventurous nature, traveled into the interior, engaged in the ivory trade, and had dealings with the Zulu king, Dingaan. He was a friend of the Boer voortrekker leader, Piet Retief. Norden was interested in plans for the development of Delagoa Bay and Port Elizabeth and joined in a gold prospecting venture. In 1840 he moved from Grahamstown, where he had a trading store with his brother MARCUS, to Cape Town and was associated with the De Pass family in exploiting the guano deposits on the west coast. In Cape Town he was active in civic affairs and was one of the municipal commissioners. He took the lead in forming Cape Town's first Hebrew congregation, Tikvath Israel (1841). When the first synagogue was built in 1849 Norden was president, holding the office until 1857 when he returned to England. JOSHUA DAVIS NORDEN (1803–1846) settled in Grahamstown as an auctioneer after leaving his frontier farm. Like his brother, he served as a municipal commissioner and was leader of the Jewish community. To defend the town from attacks by tribesmen he raised and captained the Grahamstown Yeomanry, which bore his name. In 1846 he was killed at the head of his men in a skirmish during the War of the Axe, one of a long series of "Kaffir wars." As a tribute to his "intrepidity and bravery," his former comrades erected a plaque to his memory on a wall of St. George's Cathedral, Grahamstown. A third Norden brother, SAMUEL, was killed while leading a charge in the Basuto War (1858). A nephew of Benjamin Norden was the famous San Francisco, California eccentric Joshua Davis Norton (1818–1880), known as the "Emperor Norton," who in 1859 proclaimed himself "Norton the First, Emperor of the United States."
L. Herrman, History of the Jews in South Africa (1935), index; G. Saron and L. Hotz, Jews in South Africa (1955), index; JC (July 24, 1846), repr. in: Jewish Affairs (March, 1953), 23–25; Mendelssohn, in: JHSET, 7 (1915), 192–4; Rosenthal, in: Zionist Record (South African, Sept. 30, 1932).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.