Latest update: April 26th, 2013
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.
Kurt and Edith Rothschild, refugees from Nazi Germany who met in the United States, also view all Jews as one, and their love for all Bnei Yisrael is all encompassing. In a defiance of our enemies, they are consumed with the desire to restore the Jewish people, both spiritually and physically, buoying Jewish continuity. They are dedicated to enhancing and improving Jewish lives – wherever they are.
Edith Rothschild uses pearls as a metaphor to explain why she and her husband are up to their arms, actually their necks, in communal involvement. Individual pearls are precious – but basically useless if they are not linked, or connected to the whole.
To that end, in addition to being her husband’s ezer ke’negdo, and a community leader in her own right, (as president of Emunah of Toronto, and chairman of the National Board of Emunah) Edith Rothschild has shared and promoted her vast knowledge of healthy, wholesome eating via lectures and the publishing of a cookbook entitled, Nutrilicious. Many of the tributes addressed to her husband described with awe his amazing stamina and strength as he puts in 18-hour days and nights overseeing his many chesed projects. He is often raring to go while his younger associates lag behind. Mrs. Rothschild, in her dinner speech, insisted that her 89-year-old husband was as high energy as he was due to her healthy meals. “Kurt would not be able to do what he does, if he was eating meat a few times a week like other men. No way!”
“Food for thought” is another component of what makes Mr. Rothschild tick. He has an unwavering belief in the value of a Jewish education. Says Mr. Rothschild, “To safeguard and promote Jewish continuity, the funding of Jewish education is first and foremost on my list of obligations. Our youth must be taught the ethics of our Torah, and our incredible history throughout the ages to identify as Jews and carry on our precious traditions.”
A Legacy Fund was launched at the dinner in the Rothschild’s honor. Monies raised will support Jewish educational facilities in the former Soviet Union; help resettle former Gush Katif communities in the Negev and fund necessary infrastructure such as community centers and schools; give out scholarships to graduates of Toronto day schools who wish to spend a year or two studying in yeshivot, seminaries and university; as well as help alleviate many private hardship situations in Israel that have come to Mr. Rothchild’s attention.
May they go from strength to strength and success to success as they finally return home.
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