The New York Times reports that Edgar Bronfman passed away Saturday at the age of 84. Born to a prominent Jewish/Canadian family, his mother was Saidye Bronfman and his father was Samuel Bronfman, founder of Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd. once the largest distiller in the world. After his father’s death in 1971, Bronfman took over as president, treasurer, and director of the company until 1994 when his son Edgar Jr. succeeded him as CEO.
As head of the World Jewish Congress since 1979, Bronfman was involved in several notable campaigns – advocating for the freedom of Soviet Jewry trapped behind the Iron Curtain, exposing the Nazi past of Austrian president Kurt Waldheim and campaigning for financial restitution for the victims of the Holocaust from countries in Eastern Europe and from Swiss Banks who had held their deposits. By the time he stepped down from the helm of the WJC in 2007, the organization’s position as a major Jewish organization was firmly in place. As President of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, he supported a number of Jewish organizations and initiatives such as the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a network of 1,000 young Jews from Israel and North America that taps future influencers at a formative point in their lives, their final year of high school, and immerses them in an intensive exploration of Jewish text study, pluralism and social responsibility; and Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, engaging Jewish students globally in religious, cultural, artistic, and community-service activities. In 2012, Bronfman and 12 others joined 68 other billionaires at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Giving Pledge, a long-term charitable initiative that aims to inspire conversations about philanthropy and increase charitable giving in the United States.
In addition to his wife Jan Aronson, he is survived by four sons and three daughters: Samuel Bronfman II, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Matthew Bronfman, Holly Bronfman Lev, Adam Bronfman, Sara Igtet and Clare Bronfman. His brother Charles Bronfman, his sister Phyllis Lambert, 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
His legacy will survive him for years to come as was stated on the home page of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation today:
Edgar was a giant among Jewish leaders, a legendary visionary, and a mentor and friend to all who knew him. Edgar’s philanthropic legacy will continue long after this day, and the Jewish world will continue to be shaped and served by his vision. Edgar lived by his values, and he sought the same opportunity for others.
You can read his official obituary at the Samuel Bronfman Foundation Web site.