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Special Interview a Committed Jew and Zionist

February 23, 1979
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Baron Guy de Rothschild, head of the world-famous barking firm, recalled how as a child he used to walk on Yom Kippur day to synagogue practically crossing Paris from one corner to another in top hat and tails. “We all, the entire family, used to troop behind my father to synagogue on holy days. It was all part of my Jewish upbringing. Since then, some of my values of Judaism might have changed but the core has remained,” he said.

De Rothschild, who serves as president of France’s Central Jewish Welfare Fund, the Fonds Social Juil Unifie (FSJU) and co-chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, has come under attack from certain French Jewish circles over an interview he granted to a local magazine. One paper, the Jewish Tribune run by a Strasbourg-based rabbi, even called for his resignation from his two community posts taking him to task for having said, among other things, that his second marriage is a mixed marriage and that he “feels a foreigner” in Israel.


In an Interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Guy de Rothschild explained his position. “I feel deeply Jewish and I am a Zionist but I also believe in the diversity of opinions and sentiments among members of the Jewish community.”

He said he intends to continue serving the French Jewish community, “for as long as they want me to do so and in whatever capacity they define and this for as long as my health permits. I belong to the category of Jews who are involved and devoted to the development of Judaism in all religious, social and cultural matters. I prayed for the success of Zionism in the days which preceded the second World War and the independence of Israel.”

De Rothschild told the JTA how together with his wife he demonstrated on Israel’s Independence Day in May, 1948. “Together with Mrs. Mendes-France (the wife of France’s Jewish Prime Minister), we marched down the Champs Elysee to celebrate Israel’s birth.” The Baron, a member of France’s exclusive Jockey Club, has rarely, if ever, joined any other public demonstrations.

“I also avidly follow news from Israel and,” he recalled, “during my stay in New York during World War 11 I used to be a regular reader of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Daily News Bulletin.” He added with a smile, “I still read it today.”


His personal definition of Judaism is “solidarity.” He said: “This is the key word, solidarity with all those who are Jews, first with those in my own community, France, then with Jews all over the world and especially with those made to suffer because of their Jewishness. It also involves respect and help for Jewish culture, Jewish civilization and Jewish religion.”

De Rothschild first visited Israel in 1932 when he was 23. “I toured the Jewish colonies, I want to see the Jewish settlements,” he recalled. He has often returned since, once in 1945 while still serving as a Captain in Gen. de Gaulle’s Free French forces.

“It was one of my most moving trips to Israel, then Palestine still. The war was drawing to its end and I was having a seder in Kibbutz Ein Gedi with a young kibbutznick, Teddy Kollek, and a young writer, Arthur Koestler.”


The Baron was asked if he felt that Jews living in the diaspora have on obligation or the right to take a stand on Israel’s policy. “An obligation? Definitely no. A right, neither. I agree with what (former Israeli Foreign Minister) Abba Eban once told me: “Only those who risk shedding their blood for Israel should have a voice in its basic policy matters.'” Guy de Rothschild feels, however, they can play a discreet role in trying to bring certain people together or help in the peace process.

If his name were not Rothschild, would he still play such an important role in Jewish affairs in spite of his many other activities? de Rothschild was asked.


De Rothschild is a little surprised at the virulent attacks levelled against his interview by the Jewish Tribune, It needs all kinds to make a world. Until now, he has received only some 15 letters concerning his statement: 10 were against, five in favor.

De Rothschild was elected FSJU president by its executive committee which was elected democratically by all the organization’s members. “My continuing presidency is something between the committee and myself. My colleagues on this body know that I have for long advised them to start looking for my successor and that I had always been against overlong tenures in office. What I mainly regret is that the attack was not so much directed against me personally, as against the institutions, I have the honor to serve.”

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