Remember how you used to read those the Isaac Bashevis Singer short stories as a kid and there was always someone (usually one of the Wise Men of Chelm) who would talk about how someone else was “richer than Rothschild?”
But who was this mysterious Rothschild? I went to my mother, who explained to me that the Rothschilds were a very famous family of very rich Jews who invented banking and lived all over the world. “They are the fanciest Jews who ever lived,” she said. Might I grow up and marry one someday, I inquired. She shrugged. “Sure! You’re Jewish. Why not? They could do a lot worse!”
And perhaps they have. Despite having impeccable credentials as a nice Jewish girl, I didn’t marry a Rothschild. In fact, to my knowledge, I have never even met a Rothschild, despite years and years of Jewish summer camp, living in New York City, and even bumming around many of the more Hebrew environs of Europe. Jewish geography, it seems, only goes so far.
Here’s the kind of person who does marry a Rothschild, apparently: Nicky Hilton. Always the classiest of the mid 2000’s-era celebutantes, the hotel heiress is reportedly engaged to James Rothschild, a scion and direct heir of the famed banking family. And she’s not the only Rothschild bride, present or former, to be keeping a relatively high-profile these days. Annabel Neilson, the aristocratic Alexander McQueen muse and ex-wife of banker Nat Rothschild, is one of the stars of Bravo’s latest reality harem, Ladies of London, which I will definitely write about at further length sometime soon, because it is genius.
Of course, neither Neilson or Hilton is Jewish—in fact, according to Hilton’s great-great aunt, Zsa Zsa Gabor, in her 1991 memoir, One Lifetime is Not Enough (again, genius), Conrad Hilton, the first of the line, was a bit of a Nazi sympathizer. Which goes to show that the formerly strictly cousin-marrying Rothschilds have, in their late-diaspora stage, at last adopted another form of endogamy: that of class. Ethnic lines are over; now, only the already wealthy and fabulous need apply for entrance to the world’s fanciest Jewish family. The rest of all will have to settle for being only as rich as the Goldsteins or the Epsteins or the Katzmans. You could do a lot worse.
Previous: The Rapper and the Rothschild
Related: Family Fortune
Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.