For Edgar Bronfman — and for anyone, really — a news obituary is merely a summary of moments where a person was caught in the public eye. News clippings, Google searches and resumes will capture select achievements and noteworthy moments, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Here are some anecdotes didn’t make JTA’s obituary of Edgar Bronfman:
- Earliest contribution reported by JTA: In 1961, a joint gift to the Israel Museum campuswith his siblings in honor of their father, Samuel, in the amount of $1,000,000.
- In 1977, Edgar Bronfman spearheaded the first UJA delegation of liquor industry professionals to Israel.
- The New York Times’ obituary noted the kidnapping and subsequent release of Edgar’s son, Samuel. Shortly after the incident, the AP offered further details of the ransom from a sworn affadavit, including the dramatic drop-off where Edgar showed up at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport with two garbage bags containing “2.3 million in bills in 100-dollar denominations or less” and an unknown man entered his car to lead him to a drop-off point.
- Billionaires don’t control everything. Seven months before the Camp David Accords convened, Edgar Bronfman’s scheduled meeting with Anwar Sadat was grounded due to snow. No matter though: Bronfman met with Sadat on more than one occasion thereafter, and was invited to attend Egypt as an official guest of Hosni Mubarak.
- Speaking about Israel in 1980, Bronfman stated, “There is disappointment in a country which is less than what the original Zionists envisioned — an Israel which we wanted to think of as the embodiment of Jewish ideals: fairness, justice, wisdom.”
- As Edgar Bronfman publicly excoriated Austrian politician and UN leader Kurt Waldheim for his Nazi past, renowned Vienna-based Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal criticized Bronfman’s tactics.
Take it all with a grain of salt. With death, a lot more is lost than a few amusing anecdotes. All the more so with the death of a man of Edgar Bronfman’s stature.