Rothschilds Tribute Event

The Jewish Tribune – December 22, 2011


By Shlomit Kriger

TORONTO – As Chanukah, a holiday representing joy and miracles, drew near, hundreds of members of Toronto’s Jewish community gathered at the Sheraton Centre to pay tribute to local husband and wife Kurt and Edith Rothschild, who for decades have helped bring light to others’ lives through generous contributions to organizations and communities around the world.

Although the Rothschilds will soon be moving to Israel, 91-year-old Kurt is determined to continue making himself available day and night to assist various causes there and abroad.

Proceeds from the tribute event are going toward the Legacy Fund to help support the various projects he is involved with, including providing scholarships for Toronto’s high school graduates interested in advancing their education in Israel’s seminaries or colleges, contributing to Jewish educational facilities in the former Soviet Union, and enriching Israel’s Gush Katif communities.

“The Talmud explains that no two Jews look alike and no two Jews think alike,” said Event Chair Julia Koschitzky. “It is, therefore, a divine secret how such fiercely independent individuals can come together as one people for a single purpose.

“Edith and Kurt are those leaders who’ve enabled all of us to stand tall and proud as Canadian Jews.”

Both Kurt and Edith come from a modern Orthodox Jewish upbringing in Germany.

Near the beginning of World War II, Kurt arrived in Canada among a group of several thousand young German Jewish internees. He was released from internment camp in 1941 and went on to study engineering at Queen’s University.

He later worked for electrical contracting firms in Montreal and in 1961 moved to Toronto, where he founded a national electrical and mechanical contracting group now known as The State Group Inc.

Having always been community minded and eager to help out wherever he could, after retiring Kurt sold the company and devoted himself full-time to the Jewish community. He has also remained active as President of Mercaz Olami–World Mizrachi and a board member for organizations such as Bar-Ilan University, Yeshiva University, Shaare Zedek Hospital, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

“Kurt is a man who is a legend in his life,” said keynote speaker Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, who has known the Rothschilds for dozens of years. “He may not be the tallest one, but he’s a spiritual giant.”

Rabbi Lau shared a story from the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) in which Rabbi Yossi related how he once stopped on his travels to pray in one of the ruins of Jerusalem and Elijah appeared at the entrance. Elijah waited until he was finished and then told him how he should have conducted his prayers.

“Rabbi Yossi said he learned from Elijah’s behaviour, from him,” explained Rabbi Lau. “From a good teacher, you don’t learn from what he said but rather from his personality, from what he does. Kurt is this kind of teacher.”

While supporting her husband’s passion to make a difference, Edith has also made contributions to various causes. She served as President of Emunah of Toronto and later chair of the National Board of Emunah, and she encouraged others to keep healthy through her natural whole vegetarian kosher cuisine cookbook Nutrilicious.

The Rothschilds have not only left a lasting communal legacy; they have passed down Torah ethics, including tzedakah (charity) and chessed (acts of kindness), through their three children, 21 grandchildren, and 38 great-grandchildren.

“We firmly believe that Jewish communities around the world continue to be a vital part of our global survival and must be nurtured, especially in regards to the education of our children,” said Kurt. “Mutual understanding between all factions of the Jewish community is also a goal we should pursue.

“I’d like to leave you the legacy of friendship, generousity, and tzedakah as a focus of our lives.”