FaithWorld

Edgar Bronfman, longtime head of World Jewish Congress, dies at 84

By Reuters Staff
December 24, 2013

(World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman speaks in New York, October 23, 1996. REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, the chairman of the Seagram Company and long-serving president of the World Jewish Congress, died at his New York home on Saturday aged 84.

Montreal-born Bronfman took control of the Seagram empire from his father, Samuel Bronfman who had founded the liquor company in 1924. He then expanded its operations, acquiring Tropicana and moving Seagram into the chemicals business by making it DuPont’s largest minority shareholder.

The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, he was also president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 until 2007. During his tenure, the U.S. Congress increased pressure on the then-Soviet Union to loosen emigration restrictions on Jews living there.

Bronfman also pressed Congress’ efforts to expose the Nazi past of former U.N. Secretary-General and later president of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, according to the New York Times.

The WJC during that period joined the effort to force Swiss banks to make restitution of more than $1 billion to relatives of German death camp victims who deposited funds in Switzerland before World War Two, the Times said.

“What we have to do is write the last chapter,” Bronfman told Reuters in a 1996 interview to promote his book, “The Making of a Jew”.

“We will get the story, there is no question of that,” he said. “But in the meantime, Holocaust survivors are dying every day.”

Read the full story by Chris Michaud here.

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