Tribute: Kurt Rothschild, 101, was a trusted advisor to many communal institutions in Canada and Israel, including The CJN

Kurt Rothschild (Credit: Mizrachi Canada)

In the wisdom literature of our people, King Solomon, stands tall for his voluminous, profound contributions to the insights and the values that steer Jewish life. He authored one of life’s simplest, yet most effective lessons: “speak less and do more”. Its various iterations appear in the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and indeed throughout the holy writings of the Bible.
In post-Holocaust Jewish history, Kurt Rothschild stood very tall for uniquely and devotedly taking that specific instruction by King Solomon deeply to heart for the rebuilding of Jewish life.
Born 101 years ago in Germany, Kurt became a Canadian after having been interned for two years by the British Government as an “enemy alien.” The horror of the destruction of the majority of European Jewry was the crucible that forever inflamed in him the glowing inner light that piloted his entire life.
Kurt wrote of his formative years: “I was fortunate to escape from the European inferno before the outbreak of war and, although I did not experience the horrendous cruelties of the extermination camps, the fact that I am of the Holocaust generation, has had a tremendous and over-riding effect on my goals and aspirations and is the motivation for my intense involvement in Jewish life in Canada, Israel and world-wide.”
He once told an interviewer that he felt “an obligation to honour the memory of the more than million Jewish children slaughtered by the Nazis.” He fulfilled that obligation by working for the Jewish people. The stream of Jewish communal life into which he poured his considerable strength and inexhaustible goodness was that of Jewish education and social activity.
Kurt served in countless official community capacities. For example, he was president of the world Mizrahi movement, the former president of the Zionist Federation of Canada, as well as an active director on diverse communal, university and hospital boards in North America and Israel. 
Earlier this week, alas, in Jerusalem, Kurt passed away at the age of 101.
Before he made aliyah a decade ago, Kurt was a long-standing member of the editorial advisory board of The Canadian Jewish News. The mission of the paper in the days when it existed as a weekly print edition until June 13, 2013, was to serve the best interests of the Jewish people wherever they are situated.” No words could more accurately and concisely describe the purpose, mission and very essence of Kurt Rothschild’s life.
At The CJN table, Kurt consistently, eloquently and even lovingly spoke in support of enabling the widest embrace possible of Jewish education – in traditional and more adapted, modern forms – as the strongest way of holding the diverse pieces of our people together forever. He was a perfect advisor to the editor of The CJN – wise, practical and always caring for his co-religionists. Wherever he perceived a need to act, he did so with full capacious heart.
Kurt understood deep in his soul that reaching children was the most cherished treasure and that the best way to ensure the treasure’s permanence was by teaching. “To safeguard and promote Jewish continuity,” he once wrote, “the funding of Jewish education is first and foremost on my list of obligations. Our youth must be taught the ethics of our Torah and our incredible history throughout the ages in order to identify as Jews and carry on our precious traditions.”
Kurt Rothschild’s list of obligations is also ours. His memory will indeed always be for blessing.

Mordechai Ben-Dat was the editor of The Canadian Jewish News from 1995 to 2013. This column first appeared in the weekly update of July 22, 2022, published by Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE).