Our Founder

“I dreamed of educating an interdenominational cadre of young Jews who would see their commitments to Judaism and the Jewish people through a lens broader than their own perspective. . . . In the summer of 1987, the first group of Bronfman Youth Fellows traveled to Israel to learn to talk, and more importantly, to listen, to one another. . . . Of my many philanthropic endeavors, no group gives me more hope for our people than the ‘Bronfmanim.’”

- Edgar Bronfman in a 2007 letter

Edgar M. Bronfman (1929-2013) was the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Russia who came to North America to seek a better life. Born in Montreal in 1929 and raised in a proudly Jewish home, Mr. Bronfman was always active in Jewish causes, from the days of the founding of the State of Israel to his work securing reparations for Holocaust survivors and their families. He did not begin his own personal Jewish journey, however, until he was 60 years old and working on behalf of Russian Jewry in the former Soviet Union.

Mr. Bronfman was the former CEO of the Seagram Company Ltd. He also served until 2007 as President of the World Jewish Congress, which he ran for over 20 years, and he was Founding Chairman of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Mr. Bronfman founded The Bronfman Fellowship (formerly known as The Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, or BYFI) in 1987 as a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, of which he remained President until his death in 2013. The Foundation's work continues to reflect Mr. Bronfman's love for the Jewish people and his commitment to inspiring future generations to bring about a Renaissance of Jewish life.

Mr. Bronfman's long-term vision for the Fellowship was to educate an interdenominational cadre of young Jews who would see their commitments to Judaism and the Jewish people through a lens broader than their own perspective. He hoped to inspire a value system in a young group of future leaders by providing a forum in which they can speak to one another in a substantively Jewish way.

Resources

Edgar Bronfman's 1987 letter, introducing the Fellowship

Edgar Bronfman's 2007 letter, reflecting on 20 years of the Fellowship


We remember our founder, Edgar M. Bronfman, 1929-2013. His love of Jewish learning and the Jewish people inspired him to establish the Bronfman Fellowships. In his own words, he saw the Fellowships as an opportunity for young Jews "to deepen their understanding of the complexity of Judaism so that they can go forth into the world and have an educated, informed and impassioned impact on the Jewish future and the world." We are grateful for Edgar's role in our lives and we find comfort in the knowledge that Edgar received enormous joy and satisfaction from the Bronfman Fellowships community.