Zedaka or Tzedaka
While the word is used interchangeably for charity, 'zedaka' or 'tzedakah' is seen as a form of social justice provided by the donor as well as those who utilise the support to do their work and those who allow the support into their lives. As is the case with justice, this social responsibility cannot be done to someone, rather, it must be done with someone. So much more than a financial transaction, philanthropy in the spirit of zedakah builds trusting relationships and recognizes contributions of time, effort, and insight.
Early support by the Rothschild family for Jewish causes
In England, the almost military skills which Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) had used to transfer huge sums of money to Wellington's troops and Britain's allies during the campaign against Napoleon were put to the use of the Jewish community. In addition to offering cash support to the synagogues in London, Nathan initiated a series of discussions which led eventually to the formation of the United Synagogue, thus streamlining the charitable work of the smaller constituent synagogues. Nathan's children recognised their obligations just as keenly. His eldest son, Lionel, became the first Jewish Member of Parliament after an 11-year battle, paving the way for the removal of the final civil disabilities affecting the Jewish community. As the children began to buy country estates, the areas around their mansions were transformed by planned improvements to housing for artisans, the implementation of social facilities such as health care provision, and an assurance that estate workers could rely on regular employment.
A broad commitment to welfare
The entire family preferred to become wholeheartedly involved in their favourite philanthropic interests, rather than simply making random payments to worthy causes. In Frankfurt, Nathan's youngest child Louise and her seven daughters were responsible for many of the family's 30 charitable foundations in the city, including a dental clinic, a free public library, a swimming bath, old people's homes, orphanages, funds to pay school fees, soup kitchens and hospitals. Vienna perhaps had the most astonishing variety of foundations established by the family: alongside the more usual hospitals, orphanages and educational foundations were a municipal theatre and a foundation for destitute photographers, one member of the family being a particular enthusiast for this art form.
Education and support for young people is an enduring aspect of Rothschild family philanthropy. Members of the Rothschild family supported the Jews’ Free School in London’s East End school over several generations. In London and Paris, social housing was a shared interest, resulting in the formation of the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company Limited (London) and the Rothschild Foundation (Paris) both of which constructed housing to an exceptionally advanced standard for the time. Perhaps the most radical programme of Rothschild philanthropy was staged beyond the cities where the family established banking houses. Israel owes many of its early economic successes to the work of Edmond de Rothschild, who founded numerous colonies for Jewish settlers. A silk factory, vineyard and flour mill, as well as the introduction of crops such as grapefruit and avocado, enabled the settlers to establish their economic independence.
The range of philanthropic interests of the family can be seen in the in the will of Charlotte, Baroness Lionel de Rothschild (1819-1884), who made the following charitable legacies:
Jews' Free School, Bell Lane: £15,000
Jews' Infant School, Commercial Street: £3,000
The WestminsterJews' Free School: £3,000
The Stepney Jewish Schools: £3,000
Bayswater Jewish Schools: £3,000
Jewish Board of Guardians: £10,000
The London Hospital: £10,000
The Evelina Hospital: £10,000
St George's Hospital: £5,000
Jewish Ladies' Lying-in Charity: £5,000
West London Hospital, Hammersmith: £3,000
Jews' Hospital & Orphan Asylum, Norwood: £3,000
Jewish Emigration Society: £3.000
Ladies Benevolent Loan and Visiting Society: £3,000
Clementine Hospital, Frankfurt: £3,000
Jewish Convalescent Home, Norwood: £2,000
The German Hospital, Dalston: £2,000
The Metropolitan Free Hospital: £2,000
The Home for Jewish Deaf and Dumb: £2,000
Ladies Conjoint Visiting Committee of the Board of Guardians: £2,000
Jewish Ladies' West End Charity: £1,000
Bread, Meat and Coal Charity: £1,000
Institution for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb: £1,000
Buckinghamshire Infirmary, Aylesbury: £1,000
Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary, Margate: £1,000
Hospital for Incurables, Putney: £1,000
Infant Orphan Asylum, Wanstead: £1,000
Earlswood Asylum: £1,000
Institution for the Relief of the Indigent Blind Of the Jewish Persuasion:£500
Society for Relieving Aged and Needy Jews: £500
United Synagogues: £5,000
Charities and Charitable objects in Frankfurt: £2,000
Rothschild philanthropy today
Many members of the Rothschild family have established philanthropic trusts with a variety of aims, and members of the family continue to be involved with institutions founded by their forebears such as the Evelina London Children's Hospital, and the Industrial Dwellings Society. Family foundations include the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, the ERANDA Foundation, The Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, and the Fondation de Rothschild.
Browse the links to the left to read more about some of the most important philanthropic activities of the Rothschild family.