A latter-day Rothschild

Baroness Ariane de Rothschild pays a visit to Israel

Baronesss Ariene de Rothschild with Shaul Goldstein, CEO of the Nature and Parks Authority and Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation in Caesarea (photo credit: COURTESY EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD FOUNDATION)
Baronesss Ariene de Rothschild with Shaul Goldstein, CEO of the Nature and Parks Authority and Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation in Caesarea
There’s an old Jewish joke about the beggar who says, “If I were Rothschild, I’d be richer than Rothschild.”
“How come?” asks his interlocutor.
“I’d do a little begging on the side,” is the reply.
In the case of Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, it’s not a matter of resorting to an additional source of income, but of not giving blindly to charity.
De Rothschild, a hard-working career woman both professionally and voluntarily, is a good example of 21st century nobility. She has proved to be a vital asset to the Rothschild clan, and has turned around its philosophy of philanthropy.
The Baroness is a hands-on philanthropist. She doesn’t believe in giving away money and not knowing exactly how it is going to be used. She wants to be fully conversant with the purpose and the plan that will make the goal a reality.
When it comes to philanthropy, her style is in line with a growing trend, she says. “This is a new generation of philanthropists. They’re not like their parents. Today donors are less interested in the plaque. What they want is to get the job done, and the attitude is ‘Don’t tell me that 1 plus 1 equals 2. I want 1 plus 1 to equal 3.’”
Don’t be fooled by her title. If you’ve never rubbed shoulders with nobility, especially the Rothschilds, your concepts are probably based on the stories that you heard or read as a child.
But today, in the 21st century, the nobility is far removed from a Jane Austen novel, or even a more up-to-date television series such as Downton Abbey.
In 1999, she became vice president of Edmond de Rothschild Holdings SA, and in 2015, she was named president of the Executive Committee of Edmond de Rothschild.
De Rothschild (née Langner), was born in San Salvador in November 1965, and grew up in different parts of Latin America and Africa.
Her Bachelor of Commerce degree was earned in Paris, and her Master’s Degree in Business Administration is from Pace University, New York.
In 1999, she married Baron Benjamin de Rothschild with whom she resides in Geneva together with their four daughters – Noemie, Alice, Eve, and Olivia.
She’s not only married to high finance; she’s broadly experienced in high finance herself, having worked for more than 20 years in finance and international banking in Australia, New York and Paris. She’s been a broker and a trader in foreign exchange and metals; and she’s also had extensive experience in insurance on an international scale.
She’s a true citizen of the world, because apart from having lived for various periods in the above-mentioned locations, her childhood and youth were also filled with peregrinations, due to the fact that her father was a senior executive of an international pharmaceutical company.
A natural polyglot, the Baroness is fluent in French, English, Spanish, Italian, and German, and also has a smattering of Hebrew at her command.
Her short but exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Report is primarily related to the multilayered Rothschild philanthropies, but here and there, a question allied to her profession creeps into the conversation such as her forecast for the future Bitcoin takeover.
“It’s inevitable,” she opines, adding that it’s in the best interest of central banks to go into crypto currency. “Banks are being increasingly asked to trade in KYC (Know Your Customer).”
One of the biggest challenges, she says, is retraining people so that they can become analysts. “People today focus more on managing data than on analyzing it,” she comments.
FOR CENTURIES, there was an established tradition in the Rothschild dynasty that none of the male members should marry out of the faith in order to ensure that their progeny would be Jewish. This restriction did not apply to the females, as their children would be halachically Jewish regardless of who they married.
Given that the Rothschilds, unlike most other Jews, were accepted in high society and mingled socially with non-Jews, it was not unexpected that some of the Rothschild men would fall in love with non-Jewish women, but in nearly all cases, the women converted to Judaism.
Ariane de Rothschild did not convert, nor did Nicky Hilton, who in July 2015 married financier James Rothschild, the only son of Amschel Rothschild and the grandson of Baron Victor Rothschild. Their two daughters, aged 2 and 6 months, are not Jewish. Nor for that matter, are the daughters of Ariane de Rothschild, although two of them consider themselves to be Jewish and two sometimes do and sometimes don’t, as the mood takes them.
In their home in Geneva, they practice no Jewish traditions other than to attend synagogue services on Yom Kippur – but they do have a mezuzah on the door.
Benjamin de Rothschild has been involved in a dispute with the Israel Lands Authority, which claimed that he owed it millions of shekels, and he refused to set foot in the country until the matter was settled. As far as the Rothschilds are concerned, they owe no money to the state.
Taking into account what the Rothschilds individually and collectively have given to Israel since long before the establishment of the state, foisting alleged debts on them is hitting below the belt.
Some of the many projects in which various Rothschilds individually and through their trusts and foundations have been involved with over the years include: the creation of Israel’s wine industry, the construction of the Knesset building, the Supreme Court building, and the new National Library, the establishing and financing of educational television, the Open University, the Manof Residential Youth Village near Haifa, the Jerusalem Music Center, the Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hemda Center for Science Education, the Environmental Health Fund, the Center for Educational Technology, the Israel Center for School Leadership, the Edmond de Rothschild Center for Art and Culture, the development of the Caesarea Archaeological Park in partnership with the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, with the aim of making it one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions, plus numerous scholastic awards and partnership programs with government ministries, municipal authorities, academic institutions, civic society organizations, philanthropic foundations and organizations, and much, much more.
According to the Baroness, the final details of an end to the dispute are being ironed out, and it seems that the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation will contribute an additional 750 million shekels (207 million dollars) in special grants for higher education in Israel, and also free up land that it owns for the construction of 2,000 homes in the Or Yam neighborhood of the adjacent city of Or Akiva,
Angry as he is with Israel’s Finance Ministry, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild does not take out his anger on the beneficiaries of the Edmond de Rothschild Caesarea Foundation.
There are two main Rothschild umbrella foundations operating in Israel. One is known as Yad Hanadiv, which acts on behalf of a number of Rothschild family trusts, continuing the tradition of support for the national revival of the Jewish people in its historic homeland, that was initiated in the second half of the 19th century by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, known as the benefactor or hanadiv in Hebrew; and the other is the Edmond de Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, which was founded by his grandson of the same name. While the senior Rothschild laid the groundwork for the ongoing tradition of Rothschild support by acquiring land, and establishing towns and villages, his grandson focused on the industrialization of Israel, and on boosting educational and cultural institutions.
His son, Baron Benjamin de Rothschild and Baroness Ariane, together with their daughters, have continued his work and expanded on it.
Much of the land in Caesarea was owned by the Rothschilds, who at the end of the 1950s gifted the State of Israel with 500,000 dunams (approximately 125,000 acres) of land, which even to this day, taking into account the mega-gifts of American philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, is still by far the largest single donation ever given to the state. The Rothschild family subsequently transferred its Caesarea property of around 30 dunams (about 7.4 acres) to the Edmond de Rothschild Caesarea Foundation.
Following the death of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1997, responsibility for the family’s banking group and network of philanthropic foundations that are active worldwide was taken over by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.
In both her business career and in her philanthropic work, the Baroness likes to think out of the box and to be surrounded by people who do likewise. She’s a great believer in empowerment, maintaining human dignity, innovation and collaboration, which in combination make for a better society and a better world.
Inasmuch as the Rothschilds have acted in many ways toward making the world a better place for the less fortunate, their efforts are not always appreciated.
In Europe, where the scourge of antisemitism has again reared its ugly head, the Rothschilds are subjected to unbelievable quantities of aggressive hate mail, mostly on social media.
Much as she tries to ignore it, the fact that it comes in such large volumes is worrisome not only on a personal level.
Anyone who is Jewish or who has strong Jewish connections and is living in Europe today cannot help but be concerned that history may repeat itself, despite assurances by heads of governments that they are doing everything possible to combat antisemitism, racism and all forms of xenophobia.
The Baroness does not dwell on this too much. “If you think about it all the time, it can ruin your life.”
One of the Rothschild solutions for overcoming antisemisitism is to help non-Jewish communities through the establishment of children’s homes outside of Paris for children aged 4-18. These homes with an intake of 100 children per year were originally established for Jewish children after World War II, but now accept children of all faiths. The religious customs and traditions of each are celebrated and explained, and this ecumenical interaction serves as a basis for lifelong acceptance of the other.
Unfortunately, though, the Baroness tells The Report, “the extreme right are popping up everywhere.”
There is really no way Israel can repay the Rothschilds for what they have done for the country, but their interest in education, technology, innovation and culture has prompted some of the academic institutions with which they work to award them honorary doctorates.
In June, the Technion in Haifa conferred an honorary doctorate on Baroness Ariane de Rothschild after she had previously received an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. At BGU, she voiced her belief in the potential of all Israelis, cutting across social boundaries, ethnicity and religion, to achieve excellence, and paid tribute to Israel’s universities for the vital role they play in cultivating talents across the board.
While in Israel for the Technion award, she also attended the unveiling ceremony of the newly unearthed promenade wall and Crusader market, which are the latest international tourist attraction at Caesarea Harbor, where the estimated cost of excavation and development is 150 million shekels.
In all probability, she found this more rewarding than her honorary doctorate. Speaking of the site, she said, “Every time you start digging a little hole, you see a new mosaic. It’s magical.”
She was also excited about the Or Yam housing project, which had come up for discussion long before negotiations with the ILA (Israel Land Authority), although in the beginning the talk was of 4,000 home units, not 2,000. But even 2,000 will be a boon in solving some of Or Akiva’s problems, and will definitely contribute to the city’s economy, in that the new housing will attract young middle income families.
With regard to higher education, where she has introduced various empowerment programs for women, she says, “At heart I’m not a feminist. I’m into affirmative action and giving women rights that will open doors for them so that they can prove their capability.”
A four-year all-expenses-paid scholarship program that she established is conditional on the commitment of those who receive such scholarships to give back to the community.
One of the challenges of the program was to ensure that women from Israel’s Ethiopian community would be among the recipients. Bedouin, Arab and Druze women have also been among the recipients. The scholarships are awarded to high-quality students who are likely to take leadership roles in their own comunities or the wider community.
Other than not converting to Judaism, the Baroness sees herself as a Rothschild in every respect.
Although she has thrown herself wholeheartedly into Jewish causes, the reason she didn’t convert was because she’s an all-or-nothing person, and she simply could not see herself going all the way with Judaism.