Edgar Bronfman—a prominent Jewish philanthropist, communal leader, and businessman—died at his home on Saturday, according to family spokesman Jonathan Cohen. He was 84.
Born in Montreal, Bronfman, heir to the Seagram alcoholic beverage company, took the helm of the company after his father’s death in 1971. He stepped down as CEO in 1994 and focused his energies on his foundation, The Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
Among the many initiatives supported by Bronfman was Hillel: The Foundation For Jewish Campus Life, which he is credited for helping revive in the 1990s. Bronfman also focused on Jewish education and identity, establishing the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel and the website MyJewishLearning.com.
“Edgar was deeply committed to the Jewish future,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America board. “He helped shape the Jewish world with his support for Hillel, Jewish camping, accessible Jewish learning and so much more.”
Bronfman, who also served as president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) from 1979-2007, was praised by current WJC President Ronald Lauder as “one of the greatest Jewish leaders of the past decades.
During his tenure at WJC, Bronfman was recognized for his efforts to liberate Soviet Jewry and to secure the release of Jewish prisoners. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1999.