Every Friday evening, in Jewish homes across the world, the question is asked, “Eishet chayil mi yimtzah – The woman of valor, where can she be found?”
In Toronto, the answer is well known. She is standing next to her beloved husband and male counterpart – Toronto’s man of valor. Their names are Kurt and Edith Rothschild, and soon these stalwarts of the community will be making aliyah to their true home in Israel. To that end, over 800 of their closest friends and admirers came to say goodbye at a tribute dinner sponsored by Mizrachi Canada and the UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto, and show their great appreciation to this dynamic couple’s immeasurable contributions, locally and globally.
So what is it about the Rothschilds that is so noteworthy? After all, there are many people in the Jewish community – observant and secular – who generously contribute to worthy causes. There is no lack of philanthropists who contribute financial support to either yeshivas or chesed organizations, or who endow chairs in universities; build hospital wings, or support museums and cultural institutions.
What makes Mr. Rothschild so unique is that he is an “equal opportunity” benefactor. His generosity is multi-faceted – not just in terms of his monetary contributions, but in the time, attention and concern that he unconditionally, and without hesitation offers to myriads of individuals and institutions of various affiliations – all of whom have come knocking at his door over the past half century. Indeed, were he to mount all the plaques, awards and acknowledgements that have been bestowed on him, he would have to build extensions to his house for he would quickly run out of walls.
What is special is not the avalanche of expressions of hakarat hatov they have accumulated, but their diversity – a true testament to this couple’s undiscriminating ahavat Yisrael.
Mr. Rothschild, whom dinner chair Julia Kosschitsky pointed out was president of Montreal Mizrachi at the tender age of 30, has embraced all factions of Yiddishkeit. No yeshiva is “too black hat ” for his help; no school is too chassidish for his support, no kiruv organization is too foreign for his open hand.
A glance at the “industrial sized” tribute journal given out at the dinner attests to his love and respect for the various streams of Judaism. Besides the usual greetings from high level politicians and government officials, both Canadian and Israeli, there are acknowledgments from organizations as hashkafically different as Bnei Akivah Schools; Chabad; Nishmat (The Jennie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women); Agudath Israel Anshei Kielce (Agudah South); Aish Hatorah; JACS/ Toronto/Thornhill (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically-dependent-persons and Significant-others); Ohr Samayach/JEP; World Zionist Organization; Israel Bonds; Bar-Ilan University; Yeshiva University; Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev); Moscow Community Kollel; Rabbinerseminar zu Berlin; Yad Isroel Outreach – to name just a few. Not one just to write a check, Mr. Rothschild is on the board of many of these organizations as well.
A greeting from his shul, Toras Emes Congregation, succinctly nails the Rothschild’s mindset. “No Jewish cause or need is too big or too small – national, communal or personal – to escape their loving care and deep concern.”
In his keynote speech, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel, described the short-statured Mr. Rothschild as a giant, a legend in his time; commenting that he isn’t aware of anyone else in the public eye that is so respected across the Jewish spectrum, “from the right to the left, from more religious to less religious, from Orthodox to non-Orthodox.”
In an earlier column, I wrote of the unfortunate degree of separation that has afflicted our frum communities. I felt that this deliberate, self-inflicted ghettoization where you only have shychas, a connection, with people with your exact religious and social mindset is partly responsible for the shidduch crisis and the inability of so many fine erlich young people to meet their zivug.
On another level, this insular exclusivity has lead to an attitude of their problems are just that – their problems, not ours. We support OUR yeshivas and mosdos; our resources go strictly for our institutions. We may sympathize with your situation, but that is all you will get, our sympathy.
Ironically, Jew-haters do not distinguish between different kinds of Yidden and do not put them into slots. Their evil agenda is across the board when it comes to the Jewish people – to destroy us, either spiritually or physically – or both. At the very least, they do what they can to make our lives less pleasant – as happened in the not so distant past through immigration and educational quotas, and restricting membership to certain neighborhoods, clubs and organizations.