in the fate of the Jews of the Diaspora and the extent of his contribution to Jewish causes is unknown, since the Baron always avoided publicity and rarely appeared in public. It is known, however, that he spent some $60,000,000 in his persistent efforts to establish Jewish farming colonies in Palestine. He lived to see a flourishing Jewish community in Palestine and when he visited the Holy Land in 1925, he was enthusiastic in his praise of the accomplishments of Palestine Jewry.
INTERESTED BY BILU
When the first Jewish colonies were organized in Palestine in 1882 by the Bilu group, difficulties were encountered and two delegates, Samuel Mohilever and Joseph Feinberg, were dispatched to Paris to ask Baron de Rothschild for aid. They succeeded in interesting the Baron and he gave them an initial contribution of 30,000 francs, which later grew to the tremendous sum of $60,000, as he was determined to show the world that Jews could be good farmers.
He took the colonies under his protection, and when grain cultivation proved somewhat of a failure, he started vineyards under the direction of exports. In Rishon le Zion, he built huge wine cellars, and when a market could not be found for the wine, he took the entire product of Rishon off the hands of the colonists.
Baron de Rothschild’s fifty years of work for Palestine was conducted through the Jewish Colonization Association and later through the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, of which his son James is president.
During the first few years of the existence of political Zionism, Baron de Rothschild held aloof, fearing that it might interfere with his own plans, particularly because the Turkish government looked askance at Zionism.
In later years, however, he changed his view and became a supporter of the Zionist cause. When the Jewish Agency for Palestine was formed in 1929, the Baron was chosen honorary president of the organization. Besides colonization, he was also interested in other Jewish activities in Palestine, particularly the Hebrew University. Many streets in the cities and villages in Palestine are named for Baron de Rothschild.
The noted philanthropist, who never made a public statement in fifty years, broke this rule only once in October, 1930, after the publication of the unfavorable Simpson Report. On October 28, he addressed a letter to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, then president of the World Zionist Organization, rejecting the praise of his colonies in the official British report and affirming his faith in the Zionist movement. His statement created a sensation at the time.
Baron de Rothschild owned a world famous art collection. His collection of engravings is believed to be the finest in the world. In 1906, he was elected a member of the French Academy of Fine Arts and later was appointed Keeper of Engravings at the State Museum.