Tag Archives: Jewish Knight

Jews of the Week: Evelyn de Rothschild & Jacob Rothschild

In honour of Jew of the Week’s 7th birthday this November, we will feature a month-long series on the most famous (and sometimes infamous) Jewish family of all time: the Rothschilds. This is part five of five. Click here for part one, here for part two, here for part three, and here for part four.

Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (Credit: Raul Vasquez/Bloomberg)

Having explored the lives and achievements of the first generations of Rothschilds, we now turn to the Rothschilds of our days. Although the family has grown very large over the centuries, with the number of members in the thousands, two Rothschilds stand out, and are undoubtedly the most famous in modern times. The elder is Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild (b. 1931), who spent part of his childhood in the United States. There he had his first job: distributing soda and sundaes at a pharmacy. This played a role in making him a “chocoholic”, and led to his eventual founding of an award-winning chocolate shop. Evelyn officially joined the family business at age 26, and successfully widened the family fortune. He was made chairman in 1982. He has also served as chairman of The Economist magazine, De Beers diamonds, and IBM UK. In 1989 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, and remains her personal financial adviser. Like the rest of his family, Sir Evelyn is a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts. He has donated countless sums, and his Eranda Foundation finances social welfare programs, medical research, education, and art. He has chaired a medical school and an arts academy, and is part of a trust fund that provides scholarships for students with disabilities. (His chocolate shop, too, uses only ethically-sourced cocoa beans, and a portion of all sales is donated to Elephant Family, a nature conservation charity.) Sir Evelyn retired from the family business in 2003, after engineering the merger of the London and Paris Rothschild groups into one company.

Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild

One person who is conspicuously absent from this new Rothschild company is Evelyn’s cousin, Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild (b. 1936), officially the Lord Rothschild. He was the firstborn son of the previous Rothschild baron, thereby inheriting the title. He joined the family business after receiving a Ph.D in history from Oxford University. He expected to eventually take over the family business, but cousin Evelyn was selected instead, leading Jacob to resign in disappointment, and sell his stake in the company. Undeterred, Jacob started his own investment fund and quickly multiplied his fortune (now estimated at $5 billion), proving his doubters wrong. He is a major philanthropist and patron of the arts. One of his pet projects is converting the Waddeston family manor into one of the top museums and art galleries in the world. It attracts half a million visitors a year, and has won a Museum of the Year Award. Jacob has given funds for archaeological research, and large sums to the State of Israel. He chairs Yad HaNadiv, the Israeli arm of The Rothschild Foundation, which invests in Israeli education, environmental restoration, civic projects (including the Knesset, Supreme Court, and National Library buildings), and supports Arab communities. The baron is also president of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. He has won a long list of awards for his philanthropic work and support for the arts, his wisdom and financial acumen. Click here to see a recent documentary about Jacob Rothschild and his family.

Words of the Week

I did not support you and take you under my wing due to your poverty but due to your passion to work and live in the Holy Land, and to live in accordance with the spirit of the Torah.
– Edmond de Rothschild, to farmers in Israel

Jew of the Week: Shimon Peres

A young Shimon Peres with his wife Sonia

A young Shimon Peres with his wife Sonia

Szymon Perski (1923-2016) was born in the shtetl of Vishnyeva (then part of Poland, now in Belarus) to a wealthy Russian-Jewish family. He was the great-great-grandson of the famed Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, and was greatly influenced by his own grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Meltzer. At the young age of 11, Perski’s family moved to Tel Aviv and Hebraized their last name to Peres. (Their entire extended family back in Vishnyeva would later perish in the Holocaust). After finishing his schooling, young Shimon went to live on a kibbutz working as a dairy farmer and shepherd before co-founding his own kibbutz. He was soon elected secretary of a Labor Zionist youth organization. From there, he joined the Mapai party, whose leader David Ben-Gurion took a personal interest in him. At 21, Peres was imprisoned for two weeks by the British for leading an “illegal” expedition into the Negev to scout a new place for Jewish settlement. In 1947, now married, Peres was appointed to the Haganah and put in charge of recruitment and weapons purchases. The following year, he took charge of Israel’s nascent navy. In the 50’s, while part of Israel’s delegation to the US, he studied at NYU and Harvard. At 29, he became the head of Israel’s Ministry of Defence – the youngest person to ever hold the position. He was praised for building strong military alliances with other countries (particularly France, who awarded him their highest distinction, the Legion of Honor), and securing large amounts of modern weapons that propelled Israel into a regional powerhouse. He also helped establish the crucial Dimona nuclear reactor. In 1959, Peres was elected to the Knesset. At one time or another, he served as Minister of Immigrant Absorption, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Defence, Foreign Minister, Minister of Finance, and Information Minister. In 1984, Peres was elected Israel’s prime minister, and in 2007, Israel’s president. Among his other major achievements are the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation (which he pushed through the Cabinet), the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, and his Peres Center for Peace, which has trained over 250 Arab doctors and brought life-saving treatment to thousands of Arab children. Peres was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his work with the Oslo Accords, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2008, presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 by Barack Obama, and with the US Congressional Gold Medal in 2014. He was also the author of 11 books. Sadly, following a debilitating stroke, the last of Israel’s founding fathers passed away in his sleep early Wednesday. Dignitaries from around the world are flying in to pay their respects, including past and present heads of state of Germany, France, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and the US – many of whom Peres had guided and advised. President Obama has ordered flags in America to fly at half mast. Despite his age, Peres worked tirelessly until the very last days of his life. He had once said, “Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”

Words of the Week

It’s better to be controversial for the right reasons than to be popular for the wrong reasons.
– Shimon Peres