Fairfield University's Bennett Lecture Series hosts Edgar Bronfman


Edgar Bronfman Sr., president of the World Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Restitution Organization, will be the guest speaker at the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Lecture in Judaic Studies on Monday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m., in Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Bronfman's topic is "In Search of a Renaissance in Jewish Life."

Edgar Bronfman Sr. was handed control of Seagram Company's American operation at the age of 27 by his father, Samuel. He ran that enterprise and later the entire beverage giant for the next 38 years. Eventually, Bronfman, now 71, started getting that "what-does-it-all-mean" feeling. In 1996 (while retaining the chairmanship), he handed over the management of Seagram to his son, Edgar Jr., and took up the cause of financial justice for European Jews who lost their homes and possessions during World War II.

Bronfman's personal inward journey really began in 1981 when he was asked to rescue the debt-ridden World Jewish Congress (WJC), a small non-profit organization founded to fight for the interests of Jews. He and his family retired the organization's debt and pushed WJC to gain more rights for Soviet Jews by supporting demonstrations in Europe, South America and the United States that embarrassed Soviet leaders.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, WJC shifted its attention to obtaining restitution for the six million victims of the Holocaust and their families. Bronfman lobbied the White House on the issue of the Swiss banks, where most of the victims' assets are held, resulting in U.S. Commerce Department hearings that revealed Swiss banks' cooperation with Nazi Germany. Because of Bronfman's efforts, the Swiss banks are now offering a restitution fund of $1.5 billion.

Bronfman's lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are suggested. This event is presented in cooperation with the university's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, under the direction of Ellen M. Umansky, Ph.D. For information or to reserve a seat, call Fairfield University's Office of Special Events at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2660.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 6, 2000

Vol. 33, No. 69