Jay Sanderson with Julius Rothschild
Recently, Jay Sanderson, President & CEO of The Jewish Federation, met with our Federation’s oldest supporter, Julius Rothschild. Julius’s life experience explains his deep commitment to our Jewish community. We are proud and honored to share his story below.
How does a blind, joke-telling 104-year-old Jewish refugee spend an evening? If you are Julius Rothschild, listening to Henry Kissinger’s book-on-tape of The History of Western Civilization is one way. A call from one of Federation’s fundraisers about an annual donation led us to discover this mensch who has spent his life surviving, prospering, and giving to our Jewish community.
Julius and twin sister Irma Rothschild were born on New Year’s Eve, 1911, in Mainz, Germany. “People did not believe that pogroms would happen there, even though Mein Kampf was being read,” he said. Julius moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to live with his uncle in 1934, a year after Hitler came into power. His fiancée Hilda Gottschalk followed six months later and settled in with a relative in New York. They exchanged love letters (which Julius still has and cherishes), and two years later they married. Julius got his parents out – as he says “in the nick of time.” He remembers the exact date: September 1, 1938, two months before Kristallnacht. Hilda’s parents also escaped.
Julius started out as a stock boy in a women’s clothing manufacturing company in Cleveland and by 1964 was the owner of dress manufacturer Ivan Fredericks of California. He and Hilda raised two daughters, Muriel and Judy, in Beverly Hills, where he still lives. He lost his darling daughter Judy, whom he describes as “the sweetest, kindest human being I have ever known,” to brain cancer when she was just 33 years old. He is very close to and proud of her two children, his other four grandchildren, and his eight great-grandchildren. He lost his beloved wife Hilda in 2002 to Alzheimer’s Disease.
After he retired, Julius spent 14 years at UCLA teaching advanced English to international students. “A wonderful experience,” he says. He dabbled in commercial real estate, served along with his son-in-law Jeffrey Waterman as assistant soccer coach to his grandson’s AYSO team, and raised a lot of money for United Jewish Appeal and City of Hope’s Merchant Club. He has been donating to The Jewish Federation for as long as we have been keeping records and served as Chair of the Dresses Division in the 1970s. In addition, Julius embraced volunteering for Jewish Family Services — he began in 1978 giving his time to what was known as Aid for the Elderly, “who need caregiving.” He helped them exercise in the pool, talked to them, and listened to them, but mostly entertained and “made them laugh.” Every Friday he would go to the Westside Jewish Community Center and tell jokes.
He is concerned about younger generations forgetting about the Holocaust, not caring about Israel or wanting to participate in Jewish life. Jay Sanderson promised Julius that we were committed to making sure his worries won’t turn into a reality.
Going into his 105th year of life, Julius is surrounded by loving, caregiving family, friends, and helpers. It just goes to show that you’re never too old to make an impact on our Jewish community.
Thank you, Julius, for supporting our Federation for so many years and for helping us touch lives in L.A., Israel and the world!