Wolfson family

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The coat of arms of Leonard Wolfson, Baron Wolfson Escutcheon of Lord Wolfson in the Wills Memorial Building.png
The coat of arms of Leonard Wolfson, Baron Wolfson

The Wolfson family is a British Jewish family known for its business, philanthropic, and political activities. The family owes its initial fame to Sir Isaac Wolfson, who built the Great Universal Stores retail empire and created the Wolfson Foundation. [1]


The family is of Polish-Jewish and Russian-Jewish ancestry and has branches in the U.K., the U.S., and Israel. The original family business, GUS, was eventually demerged into Home Retail Group, which included Argos and Homebase, and credit company Experian. [2] Other businesses led or controlled by family members include the retailers Burberry and Next, and the pharmaceutical company Shaklee. [3] [4]


Family patriarch Solomon Wolfson immigrated from Białystok to Glasgow, Scotland, with his wife Nechi (née Wilamowski) at the end of the 19th century. He was a furniture maker and Jewish community leader, later appointed Justice of the Peace. [5] His son Isaac Wolfson built the family retail business and founded the Wolfson Foundation and the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust. Isaac was joined at GUS by his brother Charles Wolfson and later succeeded by his son Leonard Wolfson, and his nephews David Wolfson and Victor Barnett. By World War II the family was based in London, with the Samuel Wolfson branch having moved to Israel. During the Blitz, Solomon's daughter Edith took many of the family children (the third generation) to seek refuge in the United States for the duration of the war. After World War II various family members moved permanently to New York. Today, family members live in London, New York, and Israel. [1] [5]


Arms of Wolfson College, Oxford Wolfson College Oxford Coat Of Arms (Motto).svg
Arms of Wolfson College, Oxford
Wolfson College, Cambridge Wolfson College, Cambridge (2).jpg
Wolfson College, Cambridge
Wolfson Medical School The Wolfson Medical School - geograph.org.uk - 423955.jpg
Wolfson Medical School
Heichal Shlomo and the Great Synagogue (Jerusalem) Jerusalem Great Synagogue05.jpg
Heichal Shlomo and the Great Synagogue (Jerusalem)
Kiryat Wolfson, Jerusalem Jerusalem-volfson buildings.jpg
Kiryat Wolfson, Jerusalem
Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, purchased for the National Gallery by the Wolfson Foundation Francisco Goya - Portrait of the Duke of Wellington.jpg
Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, purchased for the National Gallery by the Wolfson Foundation

A family descended from devout Orthodox Jews, the Wolfsons followed the religious and charitable example of their patriarch Solomon and the middle-European community from which he came. Isaac Wolfson is quoted as having said, "No man should have more than £100,000. The rest should go to charity." [1] The Wolfson Foundation was established in 1955, endowed with shares in the family businesses, to support and promote excellence in education, science & medicine, the arts & humanities, and health & disability. The Foundation has awarded over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) in grants to more than 11,000 projects throughout the U.K., including the founding endowments for Wolfson College, Oxford and Wolfson College, Cambridge. The Foundation also operates the Wolfson History Prize. [6] The Wolfson Economics Prize is individually sponsored by Simon Wolfson.

Through the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust and various forms of personal giving, the family have also been among Israel's earliest and most significant supporters, as well as major supporters of Jewish life in Britain and New York. In Israel, the Charitable Trust has been a primary supporter of the Weizmann Institute, the Kiryat Wolfson developments, Heichal Shlomo and the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, and Wolfson Medical Center in Tel Aviv, among many other projects. [1] Family members were also founding benefactors of Bar Ilan University and The Israel Museum, as well as Lincoln Square Synagogue and Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York. [7] [8]

Hereditary titles and honours

Created in 1962, the Wolfson Baronetcy was one of the last baronetcies and among the last non-royal hereditary titles created in the United Kingdom. In addition, three family members have been created life peers as Lord Wolfson, and many family members and their spouses have received honours for their charitable services. [5]

Family tree

See also

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