Although he came from a prominent banking family and was employed in the family bank, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild (19 August 1845 - 2 November 1934) was best known for his love of art and his support for Jewish settlement in the Promised Land.
Born and raised in Paris, Baron Edmond underwent both a traditional Jewish education and a well-rounded secular education. He married his cousin, Adelhaid von Rothschild, and together they had three children.
Deeply appreciative of the art world around him, Baron Edmond became a renowned collector. Upon his passing, tens of thousands of pieces he had collected were donated to the Louvre museum in Paris.
Baron Edmond’s involvement with the yishuv (Jewish settlement in Palestine) began in the 1880s when he worked to help Russian immigrants escape their pogrom-ridden homes and settle in Palestine. As the new settlements in Palestine struggled to establish themselves, Baron Edmond stepped up to provide the funds for their financial rescue and underwrote the expenses of Rishon Lezion, Zichron Yaakov, Rosh Pina, Ekron and several other settlements. It was under his direction that vineyards were planted in Rishon Lezion and Zichron Yaakov, which remain important vineyards in Israel’s thriving wine industry today.
Additionally, Baron Edmond helped support many other aspects of the critical work that was necessary to build the Jewish homeland, including financing the draining of swamps to rid the land of malaria-infected mosquitoes. In 1924, he founded the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) for land acquisition and management, which was directed by his son James.
Having given to many of these causes anonymously, Baron Edmond was often referred to as Hanadiv Hayadua, the “Renown Benefactor.” He passed away on the 24th of Cheshvan, 1934, and his wife died one year later. While they were initially buried in Paris, they were reinterred in Israel in 1954. Numerous streets in Israel are named after him, and Israel’s 1982/5752 Independence Day coin was dedicated to his memory.
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