One day, Bill Rothchild found a folder marked “Family,” while he was going through the belongings of his late father, Louis Rothchild, who was from Montreal.
What he stumbled upon has changed his entire family’s understanding of its history and connected long-lost relatives, says the resident of Cedarhurst, N.Y.
Rothchild, 78, discovered that he is the great-grandson of Saul (Zissel) Rothchild and Shirley (Sara Rivka) Levine of Riga, Latvia, who had six (possibly seven) children.
“From the notes, pictures, scraps of paper and a dog-eared, pencil-marked business card, a 40-page document has come to life,” says Rothchild, for whom chronicling the descendants of those siblings has become an all-consuming passion. And the tale continues to unfold.
His father and his four siblings, except the eldest, were born in Montreal, his father in 1911. The family left for Springfield, Mass., when Louis Rothchild was a young adult.
Bill Rothchild, the former regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Palm Beach, Fla., has traced the family from Russia in the late 1800s over the generations to Israel, the United States, France and Canada.
He has documented a timeline of their journeys, relying on faded photos, news clippings and anecdotes that he calls an “ever-evolving organic document.”
He learned that Rae Rothchild Abramovitch, the only girl among the six siblings, became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1941. Her granddaughter, Diane Liebling Mandel, still lives in Montreal.
A ragged business card led Rothchild to a well-known millinery shop called Ethel’s Hats, which was owned by Ethel Papier, the daughter of one of the siblings.
Ethel Papier’s adopted daughter, Cecile Papier Wise, who still resides in Montreal, is a Holocaust survivor who was hidden by a gentile family in Belgium.
It does not appear that these Rothchilds are related to the wealthy bankers of Europe.
This year, when Rothchild met his cousins Ricky Held and Howard Rothchild for the first time, they discussed planning a family reunion and Montreal seemed like the natural place.
The family will gather on June 24 at Ernie and Ellie’s restaurant and will tour a number of Jewish sites in Montreal the following day.
If you are a relative who has not yet been found, or if you knew members of the family and would like to attend, contact Donna Held at 514-489-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ricky Held at 514-626-7025 or email@example.com.