A tradition of philanthropy
Brought up in the Judengasse in Frankfurt, Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) and his brothers were imbued with a strong sense of the tradition of Zedaka, which places expectations on members of the community to work for social justice. As the family's wealth and influence grew, so did their commitment to this principle. On the occasion of his 70th birthday on 8 November 1910, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) received many testimonials and votes of thanks from the committees, trustees and boards of organisations that enjoyed support. Many of these documents are miniature works of art; a gallery of the entire collection may be found here »
The Jews' Free School
The Jews' Free School dates back to the year it was re-established at Bell Lane, Spitalfields, London, 1817, to provide basic education to the poor Jewish community in London's East End.
Founded as a charity on the philanthropic initiative of the more wealthy members of Anglo-Jewry, the School was supported and financed by benefactions and subscriptions, notably from the Rothschild family. Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) was an early benefactor, and his widow, Hannah (1783-1850), established an accumulating fund for the permanent endowment of the school in memory of her husband who had been so closely interested in its progress. Hannah also gave a benefaction of £500 for providing a new outfit of clothing for the 500 boys and girls each year, from 1822 until her death in 1850. In the early years, this gift was given anonymously through Messrs. Moses, Levy & Co. After Nathan's death in 1836, Hannah established an accumulating fund for the permanent endowment of the school, to which other members of the family gave substantial donations. Account books in the Jews' Free School Archive show that the school's investment account was held at NMR from 1841-1906.
The Rothschild family provided four active Presidents of the school, covering 115 years: Sir Anthony (1810-1876) (President 1847-1875); Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) (President 1876-1915); Leopold (1845-1917) (President 1915-1917) and Anthony Gustav (1887-1961) (President 1917-1961). Anthony's wife, Louise (1821-1910), together with her sisters-in-law Juliana (1831-1877) and Charlotte (1825-1899), sat on the Ladies' Committee, supervising tuition in the school. Charlotte and the daughters of Louise, Constance (1843-1931) and Annie (1844-1926), taught classes, all three subsequently publishing the texts of their lessons.