Tag Archives: Knesset

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: Ezer Weizman

Ezer Weizman (1924-2005), the nephew of Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, was born in Tel Aviv and raised in Haifa. In his youth, he joined the Haifa Aviation Club and was flying planes by age 16. At 18, in the midst of World War II, he enlisted in the British Royal Air Force and served in Africa and India. After the war, Weizman lived in London and studied aeronautics. It was there that he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Weizman returned to Israel to fight in the Independence War. He was one of Israel’s very first fighter pilots, co-founded its air force, and participated in the first air force mission. He continued working for the army after the war, and in 1958 became the commander of the Israeli Air Force. He modernized the IAF, personally trained its pilots, and transformed it into the powerful and feared juggernaut that it is today. In 1967, Weizman was the IDF’s chief of military operations, and helped persuade the Israeli government to launch a preemptive strike against its aggressors. He directed the surprise attack on Arab air forces on the first day of the Six-Day War, totally destroying their air power and thus securing Israel’s lightning victory. (It has been said that the Six-Day War was won by the Israeli air force in the first six hours!) In 1969, Weizman – now a major general and deputy chief of staff – retired from the military and joined the Gahal political party (the precursor of Likud). He served as a Minister of Transportation and later as Defense Minister. He oversaw the development of Israel’s Lavi fighter jet, and the critical 1978 campaign in Lebanon (Operation Litani). Meanwhile, Weizman also became an important peace negotiator. He spoke Arabic fluently, and grew close to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who went so far as to call Weizman his “younger brother”. Not surprisingly, Weizman played a key role in Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt. He later founded his own party, Yachad, and sat on the Knesset between 1984 and 1992, serving as Minister for Arab Affairs and Minister of Science and Technology. A year after leaving the Knesset, Weizman was elected Israel’s seventh president. By this point, he had built a reputation as a dove, and worked hard to promote peace. He was credited with making the office of president more relevant in Israeli society, and was praised for his warmth and concern for all of Israel’s citizens, including Arabs and Druze. After being reelected to a second term, Weizman resigned as president in 2000, and passed away five years later. He has been voted the 9th greatest Israeli of all time.

Words of the Week

There are free men with the spirit of a slave, and slaves whose spirit is full of freedom. He who is true to his inner self is a free man, while he whose entire life is merely a stage for what is good and beautiful in the eyes of others, is a slave.
Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook