Judaism was not always central in my life. My father, Samuel Bronfman, was an ardent Zionist, but there was only a minimum of Jewish education in our family. As I became an adult, married, raised children and focused on my business career, I gave little thought to my Jewish heritage.
That began to change in the 1970's when I became involved with the movement to free Soviet Jews through the World Jewish Congress. Even then, my interest had more to do with human rights than with Judaism per se. But it was on those trips to Russia that my curiosity was piqued. What is it about Judaism, I asked myself, that has kept it alive through so much adversity while so many other traditions have disappeared? Curiosity soon turned into something more, and that "something more" has since turned into a lifelong passion.
Through study and discussion of Jewish texts, I have discovered how the commentaries by the sages of old give us practical insights into living an ethical and honorable life dedicated to peace and justice. Indeed, I came to realize, the Talmud represents one of humankind's greatest intellectual achievements, predating even the English Common Law. I can still feel the pang of pride that I first sensed upon making this discovery for myself. My great wish is that every Jewish person be able to experience something similar and share the tremendous gratification that has become part of my everyday life.
Through this foundation named in memory of my father, I have dedicated myself to finding new ways to teach young Jewish people the stories and ethics our ancestors have handed down, and to nurture in them a pride in our common history. Our ultimate goal is to cultivate a Jewish community that is knowledgeable, proud and welcoming, where everyone is invited to learn and grow.
The pathway to Jewish knowledge and pride is not the same for everyone. Each of us must experience it in his or her own way; and, of course, not all of us start from the same point of departure. But the end result is something that can be shared by all who make the journey, no matter what path they take: the sense of being a part of a tradition so rich and diverse that it links us directly to the ancient past even as it guides us into a bright and promising future.
Edgar M. Bronfman, President
The Samuel Bronfman Foundation