Edgar Bronfman, Sr.

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Edgar Bronfman, Sr.
Edgar M Bronfman 1989.jpg
Edgar Bronfman in 1989
BornEdgar Miles Bronfman
(1929-06-20) June 20, 1929 (age 84)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
ResidenceNew York, New York, U.S.
NationalityAmerican[1][2]
Alma materWilliams College
Net worthIncrease$2.6 billion (2011)[3]
ReligionJudaism
Spouse(s)Ann Loeb (1953–1973)
Lady Carolyn Townshend (1973–1974)
Rita "Georgiana" Webb (dates unknown)
Jan Aronson (1994–present)
ChildrenSamuel
Edgar Bronfman, Jr.,
Matthew Bronfman
Holly
Adam
Sara Bronfman
Clare Bronfman
ParentsSamuel Bronfman
Saidye Rosner Bronfman
RelativesMinda de Gunzberg (sister)
Phyllis (sister)
Charles
 
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Edgar Bronfman, Sr.
Edgar M Bronfman 1989.jpg
Edgar Bronfman in 1989
BornEdgar Miles Bronfman
(1929-06-20) June 20, 1929 (age 84)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
ResidenceNew York, New York, U.S.
NationalityAmerican[1][2]
Alma materWilliams College
Net worthIncrease$2.6 billion (2011)[3]
ReligionJudaism
Spouse(s)Ann Loeb (1953–1973)
Lady Carolyn Townshend (1973–1974)
Rita "Georgiana" Webb (dates unknown)
Jan Aronson (1994–present)
ChildrenSamuel
Edgar Bronfman, Jr.,
Matthew Bronfman
Holly
Adam
Sara Bronfman
Clare Bronfman
ParentsSamuel Bronfman
Saidye Rosner Bronfman
RelativesMinda de Gunzberg (sister)
Phyllis (sister)
Charles

Edgar Miles Bronfman (born June 20, 1929) is a Canadian-American[1][2] businessman. He is a member of the Bronfman family.

Biography[edit]

Bronfman was born in Montreal into the Jewish Canadian Bronfman family, the son of Samuel Bronfman and Saidye Rosner Bronfman. His father was the founder of Distillers Corporation Limited, which in 1928 purchased what was then the largest distiller in the world, Seagram Company Ltd. He had three siblings: the late Minda de Gunzburg, the architecture maven Phyllis Lambert, and Charles Bronfman.

Career[edit]

Seagram[edit]

After graduating from Williams College with a B.A. degree in 1950 he joined the family business. In 1957, he took over as head of Seagram's American subsidiary. He increased the range of products sold by the company, improved distribution, and expanded the number of countries in which Seagram's products were sold. In 1966 Cemp Investments, which managed the family's investments, bought 820,000 shares of MGM and in 1969 Bronfman took over the chairmanship of MGM, albeit briefly.

Following his father's death in 1971, Bronfman took over as president, treasurer, and director of Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd. His son Edgar Jr. succeeded him as chief executive officer of the company in 1994.[4]

World Jewish Congress[edit]

When former World Jewish Congress president Philip Klutznick stepped down in 1979, Bronfman was asked to take over as acting head of the organization. Bronfman was formally elected WJC president by the Seventh Plenary Assembly, in January 1981.[5] Together with his deputy Israel Singer, Bronfman has led the World Jewish Congress in becoming the preeminent international Jewish organization. Through the campaigns to free Soviet Jewry, the exposure of the Nazi past of Austrian president Kurt Waldheim, and the campaign to compensate victims of the Holocaust and their heirs, notably in the case of the Swiss banks, Bronfman became well known internationally during the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1983, Bronfman suggested in the New York Times that "American Jews should abandon their strongest weapon, the Jackson–Vanik Amendment as a sign of goodwill that challenges the Soviets to respond in kind."[6]

After Mikhail Gorbachev's ascension in 1985, Bronfman's New York Times message began to resonate with the public. In early 1985, Bronfman secured an invitation to the Kremlin and on September 8–11, visited Moscow, becoming the first World Jewish Congress President to be formally received in Moscow by Soviet Officials. Carrying a note from Shimon Peres, Bronfman met with Gorbachev, and initiated talks of a Soviet Jewish airlift. It is said that Peres's note called on the Soviet Union to resume diplomatic relations with Israel.[7]

In a Washington Post profile a few months after the September trip, Bronfman laid out what he thought had been accomplished during his September meetings. He said, "There's going to be a buildup of pressure through the business community. The Russians know the Soviet Jewry issue is tied to trade ... My guess is that over a period of time, five to ten years, some of our goals will be achieved." Author Gal Beckerman says in his When They Come For Us We’ll Be Gone, "Bronfman had a business man's understanding of the Soviet Jewish issue. It was all a matter of negotiation, of calculating what the Russians really wanted and leveraging that against emigration."[8]

In March 1987, Bronfman along with fellow delegates of the World Jewish Congress, flew to Moscow once again. Bronfman held three days of discussions with senior Soviet officials. Together, Bronfman and the World Jewish Congress delegates advocated for the freeing of the Jews living under Soviet rule.[9][10]

On June 25, 1982, Bronfman became the first representative of a Jewish organization to speak before the United Nations. Speaking before the Special Session on Disarmament, Bronfman said, "world peace cannot tolerate the denial of the legitimacy of Israel or any other nation-state ... [and the] charge that Zionism is racism is an abomination."[11]

Bronfman's goals for the visit were threefold. First, he called for the release of all so-called Prisoners of Zion, the Jews imprisoned for expressing a desire to emigrate to Israel. Bronfman also wanted freedom for Jews in the Soviet Union to practice their religion. Finally, he called for the freedom for Soviet Jews to learn Hebrew, which was forbidden at the time.[12]

A year later, in 1988, Bronfman returned to Moscow to meet with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnaze. This trip resulted in the Soviets promising to legalize the teaching of Hebrew in the Soviet Union and to establish a Jewish cultural center in Moscow. Bronfman said of this visit, "By their actions, they are indicating that they are eager to get the question of Jewish rights and emigration off the bargaining table. And it is actions, rather than simply words, that count."[13]

In 1986, during Bronfman's presidency, the World Jewish Congress accused Austrian President Kurt Waldheim of covering up his past connections to the Nazi party. It was when Waldheim became a candidate for president that the World Jewish Congress first published material showing Waldheim's active duty in the German army during war time. This evidence was later used to prove that Waldheim must have known about the deportation of Jews to concentration camps, though Waldheim's service as an Austrian in the German army cannot be considered a war crime. Waldheim had served as an intelligence officer in a unit of the army that participated in the transfer of Greek Jews to death camps.[14]

The allegations against Waldheim resulted in public embarrassment for the Austrian president. He was on the U.S. Justice Department's list of undesirables in April 1987.[15][16]

On May 5, 1987, Bronfman spoke to the World Jewish Congress saying Waldheim was "part and parcel of the Nazi killing machine". Waldheim subsequently filed a lawsuit against Bronfman, but dropped the suit shortly after due to a lack of evidence in his favor.[14]

According to Joel Bainerman, in 1991 he was appointed to the International Jewish Committee for Inter-religious Consultations to conduct official contacts between the Vatican and the State of Israel.[17]

In the late 1990s, Bronfman championed the cause of restitution from Switzerland for Holocaust survivors.[18][19] Bronfman began an initiative that led to the $1.25 billion settlement from Swiss banks. This settlement aimed to resolve claims "that they hoarded bank accounts opened by Jews who were murdered by the Nazis".[20][21] The Swiss banks, the United States Government, and Jewish groups investigated unclaimed assets deposited by European Jews into Swiss banks before the Holocaust.[22] Negotiations began in 1995 between the U.S. and Switzerland. The parties reached a settlement in August 1998, and signed the $1.25 billion settlement in January 1999. In exchange for the settlement money, both parties agreed to release the Swiss banks and government from any claims regarding the Holocaust. The settlement was officially approved on November 22, 2000, by Judge Edward R. Korman.[23]

Bronfman stepped down from that post on May 7, 2007, amidst scandals and turmoil about Israel Singer.[24][25][26]

Bronfman was accused by another WJC official of "perfidy" when he wrote a letter to President Bush in mid‐2003 urging Bush to pressure Israel to curb construction of its controversial West Bank separation barrier,[27] co-signed by former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.[28] Former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres said in support of Bronfman, "Clearly, issues that are open for debate in Israel should be open for debate in the Jewish world."[29]

Personal life[edit]

Bronfman has been married five times (twice to his third wife):

Philanthropy[edit]

Bronfman is a philanthropist who has given large amounts of money to Jewish causes, including Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, which he is credited with helping revive together with Hillel President Richard Joel in the 1990s. The Hillel at New York University is called The Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, known by students just as "Bronfman".[34] Bronfman established the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, a leadership program for Jewish youth, and is the founder of the website MyJewishLearning.com.[35]

His mother has a concert hall named after her in Montreal, the Saidye Bronfman Centre, and a building at McGill University is named after his father.

Bronfman is also the president of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, whose work is informed by these four principles: "Jewish renaissance is grounded in Jewish learning, Jewish youth shape the future of the Jewish people, vibrant Jewish communities are open and inclusive, and that all Jews are a single family."[36]

Major points of focus for The Samuel Bronfman Foundation are conversations around pluralism, intermarriage, community engagement – especially youth – and making Jewish knowledge accessible to Jews of all backgrounds.[37] It is known for its work with the following grantees:

In April 2012, Bronfman joined 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.[41] Bronfman and 12 others joined the 68 billionaires who had already signed the giving pledge.[42]

Awards[edit]

Bronfman was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Bill Clinton in August 1999[43] and the Star of People's Friendship by East German leader Erich Honecker in October 1988.

In 2000, he received the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.[44]

Books[edit]

Articles[edit]

Bronfman is a guest blogger for the Huffington Post and a regular contributor to The Washington Post.,[49][50]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/en/biography/55
  2. ^ a b "Forbes 400 Richest Americans: Edgar Bronfman Sr". Forbes. 
  3. ^ Edgar Bronfman Sr. profile on Forbes Forbes.com. Retrieved April 2011.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Online http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/530859/Seagram-Company-Ltd
  5. ^ "Bronfman Heads Jewish Congress", New York Times, February 1, 2012
  6. ^ When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone by Gal Beckerman, p.458
  7. ^ When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone by Gal Beckerman, p.457
  8. ^ When They Come For Us We'll Be Gone by Gal Beckerman, p.458
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3] Jewish Telegraphic Archive, June 1982
  12. ^ The Making of a Jew, Edgar M. Bronfman
  13. ^ World Jewish Congress Archives, Edgar Bronfman Tribute Book, p. 62
  14. ^ a b [4]
  15. ^ [5]
  16. ^ [6]
  17. ^ The Vatican Agenda
  18. ^ [7]
  19. ^ [html?scp=10&sq=world+jewish+congress+nazi+gold&st=nyt]
  20. ^ [8]
  21. ^ [9]
  22. ^ [10]
  23. ^ [11]
  24. ^ Amiram Barkat. Members of the Tribe. The end of a beautiful friendship. Haaretz. March 25, 2007.
  25. ^ Stephanie Strom. "President of Jewish Congress Resigns After 3 Years' Turmoil". New York Times. May 8, 2007, Section A, p. 16
  26. ^ Nathaniel Popper. "Bronfman Era Ends at World Jewish Congress". Jewish Daily Forward. May 11, 2007
  27. ^ article from The Telegraph
  28. ^ JTA Archive
  29. ^ JTA Archive
  30. ^ New York Times: Paid Notice: Deaths BRONFMAN, ANN L. April 10, 2011
  31. ^ North Jersey.com: Obituary Ann Loeb Bronfman
  32. ^ Cityfile NY Profile
  33. ^ Vanity Fair: "The Heiresses and the Cult" November 2010
  34. ^ jweekly.com http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/13538/bronfman-brothers-give-jews-reason-to-raise-glasses/
  35. ^ [12]
  36. ^ "The Samuel Bronfman Foundation - Our Mission- Mission". The Samuel Bronfman Foundation. Retrieved April 19, 2011. 
  37. ^ "One On 1: Edgar Bronfman Blends Family Legacy With Personal Cause". NY1. May 6, 2009.
  38. ^ http://www.hillel.org/about/default
  39. ^ http://www.myjewishlearning.com/aboutus/abindex.shtml
  40. ^ http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/the-bronfman-youth-fellowships-in-israel-announces-24th-application-season/
  41. ^ http://givingpledge.org/Content/media/PressRelease_4_19_2012.pdf, http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/bronfman-signs-giving-pledge/
  42. ^ http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/04/19/buffett/
  43. ^ http://www.hillel.org/about/news/1999/19990819_edgar.htm (Hillel, August 19, 1999)
  44. ^ The Daily Bell http://www.thedailybell.com/2395/Edgar-Bronfman-Sr
  45. ^ [13], Jewish Book Council Review.
  46. ^ [14], Publisher's Weekly review.
  47. ^ [15], New York Times review.
  48. ^ [16], Jewish Post review.
  49. ^ "Edgar M. Bronfman". Huffington Post. 
  50. ^ "Search". The Washington Post. 

External links[edit]