Bronfman, the oldest son of legendary liquor tycoon Sam Bronfman, was as well known and renowned in the world of philanthropy as he was in business.
( L-R) Matthew Bronfman Edgar Bronfman Sr. and Edgar Bronfman Jr. ( 2005) / Getty
It has been announced that Edgar Bronfman Senior has passed away at the age of 84. According to reports, Mr. Bronfman was surrounded by his family when he passed away peacefully on Shabbat at his home in New York.
Edgar Bronfman Senior, oldest son of the late Sam Bronfman took over the reins of the whiskey empire that his father established and expanded it into a global liquor production and distribution power.
Although always active in promoting the cause of Judaism from the seventies onwards, Bronfman became increasingly active, beginning a three-decade long association with the World Jewish Congress and helping to transform it into a prestigious global force.
A force that not only safeguarded the rights of the Jewish people throughout the world while at the same time creating and sustaining educational and social programs that were specifically designed to promote what Bronfman described as a “Jewish Renaissance.”
Active in promoting the cause of Judaism up to the time of his passing, Edgar Bronfman Senior acted as President of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, working out of the landmark Seagram Building that his late father had constructed in Park Avenue, Manhattan.
In later years, Edgar Bronfman Senior was particularly known for his support of Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Jewish Life, the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, as well as the founding and upkeep of the MyJewishLearning.com. Website, which he saw as being a medium to link Jewish people around the world with knowledge of their religion and to understand its traditions.
The late Edgar Bronfman Senior also wrote four autobiographical books, and in one of them, “The Making of a Jew, ” he recalled that the turning point of his increased interest in supporting Judaism throughout the world took place during a trip that he made to the Soviet Union in 1970 as part of a delegation of prominent Jewish leaders from the West to lobby the Russian government to allow greater freedom for Soviet Jews.
It was after this trip that Mr. Bronfman began to utilize his strong negotiating skills to act as an advocate on the world diplomatic scene for the good of the Jewish people throughout the world.
After being elected president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in 1981, Mr. Bronfman was a driving force behind a global campaign designed to bolster the presence of the WJC in Jewish communities around the world while at the same time becoming more active in pursuing a more forceful form of diplomacy in the best interests of the Jewish people.
It was Edgar Bronfman Senior who was generally recognized as persuading President George H. W. Bush to rescind the infamous United Nations Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.
During the entire length of his term as head of the WJC, Mr. Bronfman continued to fight on behalf of Holocaust victims as well as their heirs, succeeding in gaining considerable financial restitution for thousandsm as well as calving out a historic agreement with Swiss banks regarding assets that they had been holding since the period of the Second World War.
So successful was he in his efforts that in 1998, Edgar Bronfman Senior was appointed by President Bill Clinton to chair the Presidential Advisory Commission on Holocaust Assets.
Edgar Bronfman Senior spent his entire business career working in Seagrams, starting at the bottom of the ladder in the family distillery in Montréal as an apprentice taster.
Appointed as CEO of the company in 1957, Mr. Bronfman led Seagrams in a major expansion drive , not only extending its line of premium whiskies and expanding into the production of fine wines, but also through the acquisition of some of the world’s leading liquor production companies including Martell Cognac and Perrier-Jouet Champagne. At the same time Seagrams acquired the distribution rights to number of premium alcohol brands, cementing the company’s position as the global leader in luxury alcohol beverages.
In the mid-sixties, Seagrams made a major diversification acquiring controlling interest in in the world-famous MGM movie studio, later selling it on for a considerable profit to Kirk Kerkorian.
In 1994, Mr. Bronfman stepped down as chairman and CEO of the Seagram Company, seven years later relinquishing his post as head of the World Jewish Congress in order to exclusively devote his time to the Sam Bronfman Foundation.
Edgar Miles Bronfman was born in 1929 in Montreal, Canada, the third child of the late Samuel and Saidye Bronfman, and brother to three siblings, Minda, Phyllis and Charles. Bronfman graduated from McGill University in 1951 with a bachelor of arts degree. After moving to New York City in 1955, Edgar Bronfman took up American citizenship in 1959.
Among the numerous bestowed on Edward Bronfman Senior during his long and distinguished life are the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed on him by President Clinton; the Chevalier de La Legion d’Honneur from the government of France; the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award from the Zionist Organization of America; as well as honorary doctoral degrees from Williams College, McGill University, Tel Aviv University, New York University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem among a number of others.