Tag Archives: Oxford

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: Sir Martin Gilbert

Martin John Gilbert (1936-2015) was born in London to parents of Russian-Jewish background. Soon after World War II broke out, the family was moved to Canada by the British government. Returning to England after the war, Gilbert finished his schooling and served for two years in the British Intelligence Corps. He then went to Oxford to study history. While a postgraduate in 1962, Gilbert was asked by Winston Churchill’s son Rudolph to assist as a researcher for Churchill’s biography. Randolph died a few years later, having brought forth just two volumes on Churchill. Gilbert took over and became the official biographer for Churchill, working on the project for over twenty five years, publishing many volumes along the way. (Currently, there are 31 books encompassing over 25,000 pages, and Gilbert had plans for more.) It was said that “Whoever made the decision to make Martin Gilbert Churchill’s biographer deserves a vote of thanks from the nation. Nothing less would suffice.” Aside from Churchill, Gilbert’s primary interests were studying the World Wars and the Holocaust, as well as producing historical atlases (his were among the very first produced). He also wrote a great deal of books and histories of Jewish communities, of Russia, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to assist the plight of Soviet Jewry. All in all, Gilbert published an astounding ninety books, many of which were highly acclaimed. His abilities as a scholar and writer were praised. His first volume on Churchill had an original rough draft with two million words (which Gilbert narrowed down to 300,000 for publication), while the short “precis” version of the biography was a mere 981 pages! Gilbert also wrote for The Sunday Times, and for a number of films and TV programs, did research for the BBC, lectured at the White House, and stood before the UN Human Rights Commission. Since 2009, he served as the Privy Counsellor of the British commission inquiring into the Iraq War. Gilbert won numerous awards and honourary degrees, and was knighted in 1995. Sadly, he passed away last week after a lengthy illness.

Words of the Week

Everything happens by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by God to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation.
– Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov