The Schmooze

Rothschild Heiress and ‘Miss Havisham of Bebop’

The name “Rothschild” means different things to different people.

In 1902, Sholem Aleichem wrote the monologue “Ven ikh bin Rothschild” (“If I Were a Rothschild”), which would be famously turned into the song “If I Were a Rich Man” by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock for “Fiddler on the Roof.” To Sholem Aleichem and generations of Jews before and since, the name signified the wealthiest of wealthy Jews.

There are those who don’t think highly of the family at all. A quick Google search reveals dozens of sites claiming that it controls the world financial markets, and several other conspiracy theories ranging from true (the family did back the British war effort against Napoleon) to totally bonkers (no, David Icke, Hitler wasn’t a Rothschild that was given power to help reshape the world in the family’s vision).

When I was growing up in the early 1980s, my mother would emphasize the fact that my pediatrician was a Rothschild, though not one of the Rothschilds. But it was still worth mentioning. When people talk about a cabal of Jewish bankers, they’re usually talking about the Rothschilds.

The book “The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild,” gives us a different sort of Rothschild. Pannonica, the rebellious daughter of Charles Rothschild, gave up the life of a European aristocrat to move to New York and support jazz icon Thelonious Monk. What makes “The Baroness” even more intriguing is that it was written by Nica’s niece and fellow Rothschild, Hannah, and is one of the few books on the family written by an actual Rothschild.

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Rothschild Heiress and ‘Miss Havisham of Bebop’

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