Baron Rothschild, banking royalty, dies at 98


Baron Rothschild, banking dynasty patriarch, dies at 98

Baron Guy de Rothschild, the patriarch of the French branch of the famed Rothschild banking empire, was a secular Jew but well understood the needs of the Jewish community. Rothschild died June 14 in Paris at 98. The cause of death was not given.

He founded the UJF, a federation of some 200 social, educational and cultural associations, in 1950 and guided it until 1982.

“The baron played a major leadership role in the French Jewish community even though he did not have any official role in the past 30 years,” said David Saada, the fund’s general director.

Saada noted that Baron Rothschild valued a role for religion in the field of education, especially among Sephardim.

“He signed a very important accord with the Jewish Agency in the 1970s that reoriented and boosted Jewish education in France,” Saada said. ” He was not at all religious, but his force was that he understood the needs of the community in that area.”

The UJF helped to restructure the community after the deportation of 75,000 French Jews by the collaborationist French government during World War II. The fund also played a major role integrating the Sephardim who came from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s, and now account for at least 70 percent of the approximately 700,000 Jews in France.

During the Nazi occupation the French government seized the Rothschilds’ financial empire because the family was Jewish. Rothschild fled to the United States and then London, where he joined the resistance led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle.

Rothschild rebuilt the empire following World War II and guided de Rothschild Freres bank from 1967 to 1979. In 1981, the bank was again taken away, this time nationalized by the French government under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.

A few years later, his son David once more began to piece together the family-banking network, which in 1987 became the Rothschild and Company Bank.

In his later years, Baron Rothschild’s main interest was horse racing.

Rothschild is survived by his sons, David and Edouard. A funeral service was planned for June 21 in Paris’ main synagogue.

— Brett Kline, Jewish Telgraphic Agency

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Coming Out on Top


After what has been a turbulent year for Los Angeles’ Jewish community, some happy news came in for The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

Despite a downturn in the economy, 2001’s United Jewish Fund (UJF) general campaign closed at $45 million, ahead of the previous year. By comparison, 2000’s UJF campaign had amassed $42.5 million. The $45 million does not include an additional $1 million raised for the Sept. 11 designated Victims of Terror Fund.

The campaign succeeded despite what Bill Bernstein, The Federation’s executive vice president of financial resource development, termed "a very shaky economy and a very tragic event that upset many charities. We also had the intifada drawing people’s attention away from the local community. Nevertheless, we still had one of the best campaigns in our history."

The lion’s share of that $45 million is already in The Federation’s coffers.

"Our pattern," Bernstein said, "is that we collect 80 percent and the balance — the last 20 percent –is collected over a two-year period."

In addition to General Campaign’s diligent leaders and staff, Bernstein credited the campaign’s success to an 11th-hour stock market surge.

"That certainly helped to restore confidence," Bernstein said.

The last financial quarter has not been kind to Jewish organizations, which were forced to lay off employees because of the economy. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles laid off some 30 workers in December. "We took a serious look at the entire operation and said, let’s be very thoughtful about the impact of the economy. We’re in a time of great challenge," Federation President John Fishel had said at the time. The Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA) also sustained the layoff of 49 employees. JCCGLA received the largest Federation allocation of any local agency — $3.2 million in 2001.

Michael Koss, 2001 Campaign chair, said that Federation layoffs in such departments as Campaign did not come until after he had wrapped up his fundraising drive. "I don’t think anyone was laid off while I was a campaign chair," Koss said.

Bernstein and Koss said the media portrayal of The Federation’s campaign woes was misleading. They dismissed the idea that part of the confusion came from ads The Federation took out in this paper, which labeled Federation programs, "endangered."

"We were always ahead in our entire campaign," Bernstein said. "What we were trying to illustrate in those ads was that we wanted to reach a goal, and unless we reached those goals, certain programs would be endangered."

Koss, who labeled the press reports "unfair media coverage," focused in 2001 on increasing gifts from established donors.

"In all of the years of solicitation," Koss said, "I rarely run into people who over-give. So I said if they can, they should give more. At virtually every event, people did."

At the Women’s Campaign, Laurie Konheim helped fundraise through the division’s seven branches, which included the Chai Emerald Zahav, Lion’s Circle, L’dor V’dor, Business and Professional Group, Kolot and Sephardic.

"Women are a huge power and influence in the community," Konheim said.

Now in her 50s, Konheim has been an active Federation participant since she attended a young women’s luncheon at 32.

"The community at large that gives to UJF has always been there and is truly loyal," said Konheim, whose main emphasis in 2001 was with young Jewish professionals.

"My big push was really for young leadership," Konheim said, "and we needed to build on that and educate the next generation and teach them to give."

Koss will continue as 2002’s Major Gift Chair, campaigning at Brentwood, El Caballero, and Hillcrest country clubs, which collectively, he said, "40 percent of all money in the community comes from."

He looks forward to a healthy 2002 drive.

"Jake [Farber, incoming Federation chairman] has a tremendous amount of commitment," Koss said, "and a very good understanding of the inner workings of the Federation process."

"It’s the most wonderful feeling to see what’s going on," Konheim said. "It’s just the most satisfying and gratifying feeling to be a part of this community."

Konheim, who maintains her Women’s Campaign chair seat for her second year, believes that she is even more prepared for 2002.

"I understand how things work," Konheim said. "I know who the players are. My goal this year is to strengthen the unity between the General Campaign and the Women’s Campaign. To work together as a team for the same cause."

Encouraging Tzedakah


"There’s nobody involved in the ADL who is older than I," Leona Goldring said the other day. "Whether or not that is something to be proud of, I don’t know!"

You decide.

Leona Goldring is 93. She not only attends monthly Anti-Defamation League (ADL) meetings, as well as planning sessions for their fundraising events, but she also is still active in the Women’s Fundraising Division of United Jewish Fund (UJF). She was its chairperson about 40 years ago, and she still attends regular strategy meetings for former chairs.

In January 2001, Goldring received the Leah Rabin Award. "I almost dropped dead when I got the card," she recalled. "Why would they give a woman who is 93 an award like this? Why would they reach back to do that? And I thought there’s only one reason. I represent the past. And I thought about how far we’ve come since my time."

I asked her how things have changed. "In those days," Goldring said, "the women’s division was not the important arm of UJF it is today. Men decided how much a woman could give. A man made the major gift in the family and a pittance of that amount was allowed to his wife. It was a lot for a woman to give $75. But some of us thought, if the women who were making these small donations were educated, they could do more."

The year Goldring was chairperson, that’s just what happened. "Honey, it was beyond belief," she said. "We had a big, big luncheon at Louis B. Mayer’s sister’s house. Seventy-five women came, and each one paid $500. You have no idea how colossal it was. From then on, we knew that the sky was the limit.

"People at that time didn’t understand the power of women," she continued. "Increasingly, these women went to their husbands and said, ‘I want to be a partner in the giving; we want the women’s division to be a strong arm.’ And that’s how it gradually began. Throughout the years since my time, we have raised millions and millions of dollars."

It’s easy to see how Goldring has been able to inspire and motivate people. "She comes to every ADL meeting to give her perspective on issues," said ADL regional director David Lehrer, who has known Goldring for more than 20 years. "I remember once when we were discussing church-state issues and prayer in school. Leona stood up and talked about being a 5-year-old in Niagara Falls. You could have heard a pin drop in the room. She spoke in such an impassioned way about what it was like to be ostracized in school because she was a Jew."

Goldring credits her parents with teaching her the values and commitment she brings to her activism. "My mother always had a pushke," she recalled. " I was taught from the very beginning that any penny, nickel, dime that I had went in there, because I had to be aware of our responsibility to our fellow men. My mother would bake and go up and down the street and offer food to people who had less than we."

What keeps Goldring going? "You have to be part of what is going on," she said. "Otherwise, you’ve lost dynamism, you have lost excitement, and you aren’t able to even carry on a conversation. It’s imperative that you keep track of what’s going on in the world, no matter what age you are."

The violence she sees in the pages of her newspaper worries her every day. "When are we going to stop murdering each other?" she asked. "I am frightened by the fact that, no matter how hard we work, there’s such intense hatred. But I don’t concentrate on it in my own life. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here."

In addition to her numerous fundraising commitments and meetings, Goldring — who subscribes to the adage, "If you don’t use it, you lose it!" — listens to computer radio shows. "I don’t understand what they’re saying, but I want to know the terminology," she said. She plays bridge with friends several afternoons a week, enjoys her nine great-grandchildren and eight grandchildren and dines with friends or with her daughter, Roberta Weintraub, former president of the Los Angeles school board. "I try not to go out more than three evenings a week," she told me. "Sometimes I forget that I’m old."

"Leona is a wonderful, committed, honest, delightful human being," Lehrer said. "We should all be like that at her age."

Pledging to Produce


Fifty-one years after going door to door and soliciting funds to help the fledgling State of Israel get off the ground, Jake Farber is at it again. But instead of trudging along Highland Avenue and seeking contributions of any size, Farber today meets in boardrooms and living rooms with major donors, whose contributions tend to run in the four- to six-figure range.

“It’s a little different today,” said Farber, general chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ 1999 United Jewish Fund.

The major challenge for the UJF today is to raise the ante from the flat campaigns of the past few years, which have yielded about $40 million in annual contributions, Farber said.

“This is the second-largest Jewish community in the United States,” Farber said. “We should be able to raise $50 million.”

To achieve that end, Farber, who headed the UJF’s Major Gifts Division last year, is urging more face-to-face solicitations — to reach the many people who don’t give at all and to encourage those who do, to increase their pledges.

“We have a lot of excellent volunteers who do this work, but it’s a tough business,” he said. “I’m not asking for myself. The need in this community and overseas is so great. Close to 50,000 people live below the poverty line in our [Jewish Los Angeles] population. Approximately 15,000 of those are confined to their homes. We give them social help, bring meals to them.”

Farber himself knows about poverty firsthand. Raised by a single mother in Boyle Heights during the Depression, he said that his family had little money. His mother still put whatever she could into the blue-and-white tzedakah box.

“She was a widow and worked all the time,” said Farber, who was 8 when his father died. “We had nothing and lived in a tiny house with two bedrooms.”

His mother worked as a seamstress to support him, his brother and sister. As a teen-ager, he delivered newspapers and did other odd jobs. After attending Roosevelt High School and serving in World War II, he enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he graduated in 1950 with an accounting degree. Farber joined his father-in-law’s metal recycling firm, Alpert and Alpert Iron and Metal, becoming president in 1980 and chairman of the board in 1996.

Both he and his wife, Janet, have become committed to communal work over the years. Farber chaired the UJF Machinery and Metals Division; serves as a Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance board member; and is a major contributor to the campaign to construct a new sports and youth complex at the Bernard Milken Campus in West Hills.

A board member and immediate past chair of Camp Ramah, Farber currently serves on the board and executive committee of the University of Judaism; he is also a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.

Farber and his family have been members of Temple Adat Ari El in North Hollywood since 1960. He was vice president and chair of the drive to build a day school at the synagogue. Janet has served as the Federation’s Women’s Conference president and chair of the Women’s Valley Alliance campaign, among other posts.

The Farbers are parents of three grown children and live in Sherman Oaks.

Bill Bernstein, UJF campaign director and Federation associate executive vice president, praised Farber for bringing a “wealth of experience and knowledge” to the job of general campaign chair. “He truly believes in the principle of tzedakah, and that ever Jew should have an opportunity to live a decent life,” Bernstein said.

Farber replaces 1998 general campaign chair Sandy Gage.

Feeling the Heat


The ad, which pictures a small child with a worried expression, is one way the UJF is trying to tackle the unfolding “Who is a Jew?” debate in Israel and to limit its impact among American donors to the UJF.

According to Bill Bernstein, an associate executive vice president who oversees the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles’ UJF campaign, donor discontent hasn’t affected local giving. The $30 million plus raised so far this year is on par with the 1996 campaign. But that doesn’t prevent Bernstein and other Federation staff and lay people from worrying about whether that support will remain strong.

Of particular concern is a bill currently making its way through the Israeli Knesset. The measure says that any person converted by a Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbi in the Diaspora could become an Israeli citizen but isn’t considered Jewish in religious matters, such as marriage, burial, divorce and conversion.

“Through all the years that American Jews have supported Israel, there has never been a question about anybody’s Judaism,” Bernstein said. “Now, for the first time, this is becoming a reality — and a problem.”

Todd Morgan, the 1997 UJF general chair, said that the distress signals tend to come from the older donors — those who have intermarried children and grandchildren whose spouses have been converted by Reform or Conservative rabbis.

“These are people who have given money to Israel forever,” said Morgan. “They have a grandchild who wouldn’t qualify as a Jew there. And they say, ‘How can they tell me my grandchildren aren’t Jews? They go to synagogue. And Israel says they can’t be married or buried there.'”


“You can’t expect

American philanthropists who

have given their emotional

heart and soul

and financial resources

to Israel not to feel

offended in some way

by this bill.” Bill Bernstein


Although, for many, the feelings are heartfelt and based on knowledge, for others, the conversion bill may provide an excuse not to give, some Federation leaders believe.

“Some say, ‘If I’m not Jewish, I don’t have to give to the Federation,'” said Herb Gelfand, Federation president. “They say it jokingly, and they know they’re Jewish. But we hear a lot about it.”

While UJF totals remain unaffected, fund-raisers are beginning to hear from contributors who say that they’re considering not giving, reducing their contributions, or not making good on pledges that have already been made. Many are loyal supporters of Israel, “who feel that this is the only way to express their frustration, anger and absolute concern for what Israel might become,” Bernstein said. “You can’t expect American philan-thropists who have given their emotional heart and soul and financial resources to Israel not to feel offended in some way by this bill.”

But, Bernstein stressed, few are aware of how little of their contribution actually goes to support Orthodox-affiliated groups in Israel. In fact, only one-half cent of every dollar contributed to the UJF here goes to such groups. Most money distributed through the Jewish Agency go to humanitarian and service programs, such as aliyah, resettlement and education.

In Israel, as in Los Angeles — where about 60 percent of UJF contributions are spent — much of the spending is on programs that are based not on ideology, politics or religion but on human needs, said Federation Executive Vice President John Fishel. “We have to continuously remind our donors of that.”

Even so, there are those who simply want to send a message with their money. Several donors believe that by withholding their contributions to humanitarian causes in Israel, the government will then have to ante up the difference and will then have less to spend on Orthodox programs.

The problem is much more one of perception than of reality, Bernstein said. “Unfortunately, the Orthodox community has been targeted,” he said. “Many who are Orthodox here and in Israel don’t support this legislation.”

The Federation, so far, has resisted allowing any but the largest donors to earmark part of their contribution to specific local programs. But just this week, the United Israel Appeal, the U.S. governing board of the Jewish Agency, approved allocating an additional $1 million to the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel this year and another $5 million in 1998. The money, some of which comes from UJF dollars, was welcomed by the Federation’s Bernstein as supporting the movement toward greater pluralism in Israel.

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