‘A towering presence in our lives’ – Jacob Rothschild dies

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‘A towering presence in our lives’ – Jacob Rothschild dies

Family pays tribute to banking dynasty scion and philanthropist, who was 87

Portrait: Jacob Rothschild, 4th baron Rothschild (man in a chair) by Lucian Freud
Portrait: Jacob Rothschild, 4th baron Rothschild (man in a chair) by Lucian Freud

The head of the Rothschild banking dynasty has died at the age of 87. 

Jacob, the fourth Baron Rothschild, was celebrated for philanthropy, communal endeavours and his dedication to Israel. He was one of only 24 members of the Order of Merit.

The Rothschild family said: “Our father Jacob was a towering presence in many people’s lives – a superbly accomplished financier, a champion of the arts and culture, a devoted public servant, a passionate supporter of charitable causes in Israel and and Jewish culture, a keen environmentalist and much-loved friend, father and grandfather.

“He will be buried in accordance with Jewish custom in a small family ceremony and there will be a memorial at a later date to celebrate his life.”

Isaac Herzog, the President of the State of Israel, issued a personal statement on Twitter/X, saying: “I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Lord Jacob Rothschild. With his passing, we bid farewell to a great man who carried the historic legacy of his family with pride and humility, working always for the wellbeing of Britain, Israel, and Jewish communities all over the world. Through Yad HaNadiv, his generosity and vision saw the construction of two jewels in the crown of Jerusalem – the magnificent Supreme Court building, and the beautiful new National Library which he sadly did not live to visit.

Screenshot: Twitter

“As a prominent businessman and philanthropist, Lord Rothschild’s contribution to Britain, Israel, and the world has been as important as it has been impactful, and while we are especially sad to lose him during such difficult days, his generosity and wise counsel will be remembered with love and gratitude. As a close friend of my family, and to Michal and me, I felt a very personal connection to Lord Rothschild and I will miss him dearly. Michal and I send our heartfelt sympathies to all his family and friends.”

In an announcement on social media, Waddesdon Manor, historic home of the Rothschild family now owned by the National Trust, wrote: “The Rothschild Foundation and Waddesdon Manor are deeply saddened to announce the death of Lord Rothschild, businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and cultural leader. He will be greatly missed by his family, his colleagues and his many friends.”

The National Library of Israel said: “It is with profound sadness that the National Library of Israel mourns the passing of Lord (Jacob) Rothschild, a champion of the Jewish people, learning, and culture, whose contribution to the Library, Israel, and the Jewish people is immeasurable.

“As Chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the Rothschild family’s charitable organization set up for the benefit of all inhabitants of Israel, Lord Rothschild played a foundational role in the National Library of Israel’s renewal and the establishment and construction of a new Library building.  His vision, leadership, and commitment made this dream a reality.

“At the groundbreaking ceremony in 2016, Lord Rothschild noted his family’s long-standing relationship to the Library, and shared, ‘For 2,000 years our treasured books were scattered, with no geographic center of gravity. Now at long last, these volumes as well as those yet to be written, together with a wide range of other collected materials, are to have a permanent home and one where it should be—in the heart of Jerusalem…The Library will have the responsibility of nothing less than preserving and illuminating the history of Jewish civilization.’

“This vision extended far beyond the walls of the building, as digital technology supported in large part by Yad Hanadiv, enables the National Library of Israel to share its treasures with the entire world.

“As President of The Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, Lord Rothschild powered the establishment of Gesher L’Europa (Bridge to Europe), an initiative to connect between the Library in Jerusalem, and people, heritage institutions, and Jewish communities across Europe through knowledge sharing, cultural and educational programming, and storytelling.

“All this and more were part of the Library’s renewal plan, now being realized, that has aimed to develop a 21st century library preserving generations of Jewish and Israeli culture in its full diversity, providing superior services to the public and scholars in Israel and the world, and playing a central role in the intellectual and cultural life of all Israelis and the Jewish world.

“Sadly, due to the war in the aftermath of the October 7 attack, the Library was forced to postpone its official opening, which had been scheduled for October 17, 2023.

“Sallai Meridor, chairman of the Board of the National Library of Israel, said: ‘Lord Rothschild was the driving force and spirit behind the renewal of the National Library of Israel. The Jewish people and the State of Israel will forever be indebted to him for this invaluable treasure.  I am deeply saddened by his passing, and for his not being able to see the new Library building as it is today, filled with light, life, and meaning. We are honored that this institution is a part of the Rothschild legacy, and will always be proud of Lord Rothschild’s kinship with the National Library of Israel.  May his memory be for a blessing.’

“Oren Weinberg, CEO of the National Library of Israel, said, ‘Lord Rothschild’s support of this institution was steadfast, and his faith in the Library’s mission a testament to the Rothschild family heritage. We send our deepest sympathies to Hannah, Beth, Emily and Nat, and their families’.”

Lord Rothschild grew investment firm RIT Capital Partners Plc into one of the largest investment trusts quoted on the London Stock Exchange. His roles also included deputy chairman of (then) BSkyB Television and chairman of trustees at The National Gallery.

Pic: Twitter

Lord Rothschild chaired the Yad Hanadiv Foundation for more than 35 years, supporting projects across education, environmental maintenance and the advancement of opportunity for Israel’s Arab community. He also supported the establishment of the National Library in Jerusalem.

In 2017, he spoke to Jewish News about the role of his cousin Dorothea in the signing of the historic Balfour Declaration. In 2019, the then Prince Charles paid tribute to his interfaith work, awarding him the Council of Christians and Jews’ (CCJ) 2019 Bridge Award. The Rothschild family helped establish the CCJ in 1942.

In 2021, together with Sir Victor Blank, he agreed to fund a curator of Hebraica and Judaica at Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries for the next 25 years.

At the time, Lord Rothschild said his family was “proud to be associated” with the initiative. “Our Foundation looks to the future. Supporting this curatorial position will contribute to securing Jewish scholarship and offering access to unique manuscripts for generations to come.”

The Rothschild Foundation invests in arts, heritage education and social welfare, and supports projects in Israel aimed at breaking down societal barriers.

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