שבת ט' בכסלו תשפ"ג 03/12/2022
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  • The Mission Continues

    As in the past so it remains today - we were and still are under the selfsame commitment to adhere to the directions of the Gedolei Yisrael, who stand guard against breaches of purity threatening our camp. When we were required to ask – we asked. When we were instructed to depart – we left. The moment we are summoned back to raise the flag, every other consideration is pushed to the side and we answer: We are ready!

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  • Harav Yisrael Friedman zy”a, the Rebbe of Husyatin

    מוטי, ויקיפדיה העברית

    The ancestral chain of Harav Yisrael Friedman, the founder of the Husyatin chassidic court, originates with the holy Baal Shem Tov. The Husyatin chassidus has its roots in Galicia and eventually came to Tel Aviv, during the turbulent years between the two World Wars.

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  • Maccabi'im Gravesite

    In honour of Chanukah, we will discuss a fascinating, ongoing investigation attempting to establish the place of burial of Mattisyahu Kohen Gadol and his family.

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Reflections

Baron Avraham Binyamin Edmond d’Rothschild

One of the founders of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael in modern times was Baron Avraham Binyamin Edmond d’Rothschild. Baron Rothschild assisted with the establishment of many settlements, including Mazkeret Batya, Rishon Letzion, Zichron Yaakov, Petach Tikva, Metullah, as well as many others.

Motty Meringer 11/11/2009 08:00
 
Baron Avraham Binyamin Edmond d’Rothschild[צלם]

It was Meir Anshil Rothschild who was the first Rothschild to establish the family as a famous banking dynasty. He founded his bank in the city of Frankfurt au Main, and from then onwards, this family was one of the richest Jewish families in the world. Despite their great wealth, the Rothschild family members did not forget their Jewish brethren across Europe, most of whom were impoverished and often in dire straits – the Rothschilds were renowned for the generous assistance they extended to Jewish communities all over the world.

The fifth son of Meir Anshil, the youngest child of the family, was Yaakov James Rothschild. Yaakov James married the daughter of his brother Shlomo Meir, and they had five sons and daughters. The fifth child of Yaakov James was Avraham Binyamin Edmond Rothschild, who is generally known as Baron Edmond d’Rothschild.


Jacob James Rothschild


Baron Edmond d’Rothschild was born on the 15th of Av in the year 5605. He spent his childhood years in the home of his parents who were materially blessed and lacked for nothing, and he was educated in a school for the nobility. In order that he should be acquainted with all religious precepts, his parents hired an older talmid chacham who was an accomplished scholar by the name of Dr. Cohen, who taught the young baron all his Jewish studies, in order that he should be able to conduct his life in the manner of a believing Jew, as had his ancestors in all previous generations. This Dr. Cohen was also the advisor of Yaakov James Rothschild on matters relating to tzedakah, and he was dispatched by him to Eretz Yisrael in order to seek ways in which the Baron might assist the Jews of Yerushalayim. Following his return from the Holy Land, the Rothschild hospital was built in the Old City in order to serve the Jews there.

When the Baron came of age he married his cousin, the daughter of Shimon Wolf Rothschild, who was affectionately known as the ‘Tzaddik Baron’ owing to his many generous deeds. The Baron’s new wife, who originated from a deeply religious household, had a great impact on the conduct of her husband, who strengthened his ties with the Jewish faith and traditions. In addition, the Baron was very close with his principal rav and teacher in France, Harav Tzadok Kahn, whose influence was instrumental in persuading the Baron to extend his assistance to the new settlements in Eretz Yisrael.

In those times, the Russian Empire controlled large parts of eastern Europe, and more than four million Jews found themselves under Russian rule. These Jews suffered from the tyranny of the Czar, the ruler of Russia, who was also a great Jew-hater. In the year 5641 Czar Alexander the Second was assassinated by a student who was a member of a cell that opposed the Czar’s rule. Following this, the leadership of the Empire passed to Alexander II’s son, Alexander the Third. For over a year after the assassination, the Jews of south-west Russia suffered from riots and pogroms which were later given the name ‘Southern Storms’. These uprisings were tacitly encouraged by the government and the newspapers, and many Jews were killed in the course of the riots. Others were robbed of all their possessions and were left entirely destitute. The pogroms and the decrees that were imposed upon the Jews in their wake were a signal to the Jews of Russia that their days of relatively stable residence in that land were numbered, and this prompted the emigration over the coming years of two and a half million Jews, to the United States and other lands.

Following the pogroms, the Baron, who had business ties with Russia, published a letter decrying the policies of the Russian government, although he did not yet cut off ties with the Russians at this point. In the year 5642 Harav Shmuel Mohlever arrived in France, in the context of his travels among the wealthy of Europe, with the aim of recruiting them to support his idea of establishing Jewish settlements in Eretz Yisrael. In Paris he met up with Harav Tzadok Kahn, who was persuaded of his cause, and agreed to assist him with the futhering of his aspirations. Harav Kahn used his connections with Baron Rothschild, and arranged a meeting between the Baron and Harav Mohlever. During the course of their meeting, Harav Mohlever attempted to persuade the Baron of the importance of establishing new settlements in Eretz Yisrael, enabling the return of Jews to settle within her borders. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Baron addressed Harav Mohlever, saying that if he was soliciting a sum of money from him to assist him with his cause, he would give him any sum he desired – but if he wished to recruit him to the cause itself, and use his services as a emissary and representative, then he would have to wait until the Baron had considered the matter more carefully.

Harav Mohlever left the Baron and a few days later he received a letter from him, through Harav Kahn, in which the Baron informed Harav Mohlever that he was willing to pursue the settlement plans and aid their establishment. He wrote that he was prepared to fund ten families, who were to be Russian Jews, and would set up a settlement in Eretz Yisrael. The Baron only agreed to fund the settlement on the condition that the families would first attend the ‘Mikveh Yisrael’ agricultural college, where they would learn farming skills and techniques. In his letter to Harav Mohlever, the Baron stipulated his conditions for undertaking the project; “They shall be given a stake in the land, that they shall farm it and shall support themselves from its produce - they will receive assistance until they will be able to build for themselves and their descendants houses to dwell in, and are able to purchase all the materials they need in order to farm.” At the conclusion of his letter, the Baron wrote; “If this enterprise is truly successful, with G-d’s help, we will be able to continue with similar projects in the future, and will be able to forge a new path for our brethren to tread in the future.”


the Rothschild Jewish Hospital. []
  []


The plan was put into action, and ten families ascended to Eretz Yisrael and established the settlement of Ekron, which was later renamed ‘Mazkeret Batya’ after the mother of the Baron.

A few days after the visit of Harav Mohlever, a farmer by the name of Yosef Feinberg arrived in Paris, who was one of the founders of the settlement of Rishon Letzion. Feinberg had travelled to Paris in order to enlist help for his new settlement, which was in danger of collapsing. As with Harav Mohlever, Feinberg was able to gain an audience with the Baron through the intervention of Harav Kahn, and the Baron was extremely impressed with the fact that Feinberg was a Jewish farmer, working the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. At their meeting, the Baron agreed to allocate an initial sum of thirty thousand franks to the settlement, which would be sufficient for the digging of a well in the little town, and the Baron also offered to send immediate assistance to several of the families living there. In addition, the Baron promised to send expert agronomists from France who would give professional advice to the farmers of Rishon Letzion on how to best grow produce. The Baron made his allocation on the basis of the fulfilment of four conditions: The first condition was that the settlement would accept an additional fifteen families to live there. The second condition was that the principal of the Mikveh Yisrael agricultural college would be the one responsible for overseeing the proper use of the donated sums. The third condition was that the inhabitants of Rishon Letzion would not turn to any others for assistance. The fourth condition was that the name of the Baron as the donor would be kept secret and not publicised. This fourth condition led to Baron Rothschild becoming known as ‘The well-known philanthropist’, without his name being mentioned.

A short while after Feinberg’s visit to Paris, a group of French agronomists arrived in Rishon Letzion at the behest of the Baron. The experts toured the settlement, and after noticing how grapevines were blossoming in the wild, between the buildings of the settlement, they concluded that the area was naturally suited to the cultivation of grapes, and they presented this conclusion to the Baron. The Baron, who was already picturing in his mind’s eye the people of Rishon Letzion growing grapes and producing wine, became greatly enthusiastic at the notion, and decided to take Rishon Letzion under his wing as his personal project.

Shortly afterwards the fields of Rishon Letzion were planted with vines, and a water well was dug which provided pure water for drinking and irrigation. For the next three years the residents of Rishon Letzion waited patiently for the years of orlah to pass. In the fourth year they redeemed the produce of the vines and enjoyed the fruits of their labours. The Baron, who had realised in advance the financial potential of the vine plantations, sent an expert surveyor from France who began to arrange for the construction of a Jewish winery, the first to be established in Eretz Yisrael, which was named ‘Rishon Letzion Wineries’.

The Baron continued to offer his assistance to the settlements in Rishon Letzion and other locations, sending his supervisors to all the areas to which he allocated funds, who became known as ‘the Baron’s supervisors’. However, the relationship between the Jewish farmers and the supervisors was not always a cordial one – there were many conflicts between the two parties. Tensions were often exacerbated by the fact that in general, the farmers of the settlements who received assistance were religious Jews, yirei Shamayim, whereas the Baron’s supervisors tended to be more modern in their thinking, affected by the secular winds blowing during that period.

After Rishon Letzion had been established on a firm footing, the Baron expanded his activities to other areas in Eretz Yisrael. The Baron heard about the settlement of Rosh Pinah that had fallen into difficulties, and about the fledgling settlement of Zmarin on the Carmel, which was also experiencing difficulties. The Baron then extended his support to these two settlements as well – the settlement of Zmarin changed its name to Zichron Yaakov after the father of the Baron, Yaakov James Rothschild. In Zichron Yaakov the Baron saw to the building of a second winery, following the one in Rishon Letzion, and these two wineries began to produce wine from superior grapes purchased from settlements supported by the Baron. In order to produce and market the wine, the Baron founded his ‘Carmel’ company, which is still in existence today under the name ‘Carmel Mizrachi wineries’. The Baron was also instrumental in the establishment of the settlements of Binyamina, which was named after himself, and Givat Ada, which was named after his wife. The Baron also extended his assistance to the settlement of Petach Tikvah and to other settlements in other locations.

The Baron did not restrict his focus to the cultivation of grapes and wine, but also attempted to expand agricultural production in Eretz Yisrael in many additional directions. He donated funds towards the raising of sheep and cattle, and invested large sums in setting up poultry-breeding in many locations. In Tantura, near Zichron Yaakov, he decided to experiment in establishing a bottle-making factory; in Rosh Pinah he set up a silk-weaving factory; and in Yesod Hamaalah the Baron attempted to establish a factory for the production of spices. Although many of these factories were unsuccessful, the Baron’s enthusiasm was not affected, and he continued and even enhanced his support of the fledgling settlements in the holy land, displaying ever greater generosity.

Apart from his concern for the material affairs of the inhabitants of the settlements, the Baron also concerned himself with the spiritual situation in each of the settlements which came under his protection. He made sure that a beis knesses was built in each one, a beautiful edifice, as well as a mikvah taharah. In every settlement that received his aid, a rav was appointed, as well as a shochet and all other functionaries necessary for the living of a full Jewish life.

During the course of his life the Baron visited Eretz Yisrael five times. On his first visit, which took place in the year 5647, the Baron travelled as far as the port of Alexandria on his private ship, and from there he continued his journey inconspicuously, on a regular ship. The reason for the Baron’s attempt at maintaining secrecy was his desire to avoid a large reception, and his wish not to arouse the attention of the Ottoman authorities who then controlled Eretz Yisrael. Naturally, however, these efforts were unsuccessful and the news of the Baron’s arrival in the Holy Land spread swiftly, causing a large number of people to make their way to the port in Yaffo to welcome him.

Following this visit, the Baron visited Eretz Yisrael on another four occasions. On each visit he met with the Jewish settlers and discussed with them the details of their farming work and their specific needs. On his second visit to Eretz Yisrael, he was met by a group of farmers who requested to establish a new community on the land. As soon as the Baron consented to their request, they went and founded the settlement of Metullah. On each of the Baron’s visits, the Baron exhorted the recipients of his assistance to conduct their lives according to the Torah and to observe the mitzvos. He would often quote the words of the Torah and the Prophets, that when the Jewish people did not keep the mitzvos of the Torah, Hakadosh Baruch Hu expelled them from the Land, G-d forbid.

One striking story occurred during the third visit of the Baron to Eretz Yisrael. Among the settlements that he visited, he paid a trip to Petach Tikvah. The Baron was given a grand reception there and accorded great honour. The reception party of the residents was led by a man riding on a horse, the guard of the settlement, a man named Avraham Shapira. The Baron took a distinct liking to Shapira, and appointed him as his personal assistant for the duration of his visit to that region.

After the Baron departed from Petach Tikvah, he bade farewell to Shapira, and travelled from Yaffo to Tantura, in order to visit the bottle-making factory there. Shortly after the Baron left, a package of mail arrived for him, and Shapira took the package by horseback to Zichron Yaakov in order to deliver it there in person. However, when he arrived in Zichron Yaakov, he found it almost emptied of its inhabitants, since almost all of them had gone to Tantura to welcome the Baron there. Shapira then hurriedly rode on to Tantura, but by the time he arrived there, he realised that the Baron had already left on his ship. Shapira did not despair, but instead rented a little boat from a Bedouin, and rowed quickly after the Baron’s ship.

When his little boat reached the Baron’s ship, Shapira delivered the Baron’s letters, to the Baron’s astonishment, who then invited Shapira to partake of a lavish meal from the ship’s kitchen. However, Shapira refused, explaining that all his life he had been exceptionally meticulous with his observance of kashrus, and that even when he had been invited to the tents of Bedouins, he had never tasted a morsel of food. When the Baron heard this, he took Shapira to the ship’s kitchen, and only after he assured him and showed him that the kitchen was run to the highest standards of kashrus, did Shapira agree to join him for a meal.

Baron Edmond d’Rothschild remained a supporter of the settlements of Eretz Yisrael with great generosity until his last days. He did all in his power to develop agriculture and farming in the Holy Land. Baron Avraham Binyamin Edmond d’Rothschild was niftar at the advanced age of ninety on the 24th of Cheshvan in the year 5695. After his petirah, he was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in France, and in the year 5714 his bones were brought to their final resting place in Eretz Yisrael, where he was reinterred in Ganei Ramat haNadiv in Zichron Yaakov.


 

Baron Rothschild's face on the 500 Shekel Bill []
Neta
the Rothschild Family Stamp on the Shimshoni House in Rechavia, Jerusalem []
Gate of the Baron's Park in Mazker []