Who is he: Edgar Bronfman, Sr. is from one of the wealthiest Jewish families in Canada due to his family's ownership of the former Seagrams empire but Bronfman is best known to the general public for his leadership of the World Jewish Congress (WJC). He is the father of Edgar Bronfman, Jr.
The WJC organization is a federation of Jewish communities located outside of Israel. Bronfman has made the Congress the pre-eminent global Jewish organization via campaigns to free Soviet Jews, the exposure of Austrian president Kurt Waldheim's alleged Nazi past and the questionable campaign to compensate Jewish victims of the Holocaust and heirs from the wealth of Swiss banks.
We take issue with the raid on Swiss banks which actually protected Jewish and other depositors opposed to the Nazi regime but Bronfman was smart enough to go where the money was. Unlike in other nations, where bank deposits of lost clients eventually go to the state, in Switzerland the banks keep the funds in case heirs come forward for the account funds.
This seems to have been nothing more than a public relations campaign. It was apparently designed to hold Swiss banks hostage in exchange for a payoff to large Jewish law firms, individuals and entities who would call off the campaign in exchange for funding. Still, this was a major funding and PR success for the Jewish community.
Background: Edgar Miles Bronfman, Sr. was born on June 20, 1929 and is a successful Canadian businessman and major philanthropist to Jewish causes. Bronfman is the son of Samuel Bronfman who purchased Seagram & Sons in 1928. In 1951, Bronfman graduated from McGill University with a B.A. degree with honors in history and immediately joined the family business. At Seagrams, Bronfman broadened the range of products, enhanced product distribution and expanded the brand into far more countries than previously.
Bronfman's father died in 1971 and Edgar became president, treasurer and director of Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Ltd. The company expanded until 1994 when his son Edgar Jr. became CEO. Much of the profits were enhanced offshore in jurisdictions like Bermuda, where the company had impressive headquarters.
Bronfman was elected President of the World Jewish Congress in 1981 and was very successful in supporting and funding Jewish causes. In the 1990s Bronfman helped to revive Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Bronfman also created the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, an elite leadership program for Jewish youth in Israel.
Bronfman is also President of a foundation named after his father, the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, which follows four principles to advance a renaissance of the Jewish people. The Foundation states as its 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."
Edgar Bronfman, Sr. has been married five times and has been awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton as well as the East German Star of People's Friendship by Erich Honecker in 1988, just before the fall of the communist dictatorship. In 2000, Bronfman also was awarded the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting social justice and tolerance. Money may not buy you love but it will buy you awards and commendations.