Jewish philanthropist Andrea Bronfman hit by car, dies at 60

new york | Andrea Bronfman kept the book-lined study in her Jerusalem home exactly as it had been when the house belonged to her parents years before.

The gesture, say those who knew Bronfman, was characteristic of a woman who had devoted herself to perpetuating Jewish ideals and education both in Israel and in the diaspora.

Bronfman, a giant in the world of Jewish philanthropy, was killed Monday, Jan. 23 when a livery cab struck her while she was walking her dog on 65th Street in Manhattan.

According to the New York Post, the driver of the cab was issued a summons for failing to yield to a pedestrian. The Post also reported that Bronfman was unaware that she had been mortally injured and called her husband on a cell phone from the ambulance to say she was fine.

She suffered heavy internal bleeding — requiring more than a dozen units of blood — and died on the operating table. She was 60.

“She was a Zionist — and her parents were lovers of Israel and strong Zionists,” said Marlene Post, who worked with Bronfman at birthright israel, the 6-year-old program that to date has taken nearly 100,000 young Jews to Israel for free 10-day trips. “She had excellent Judaic and Zionist values that I believe came from her parents.”

“I don’t even have the right words to say what a great loss this is,” Post added. “Not only to her husband, Charles, personally, but to New York City, because she loves New York; to the Jewish world; but especially to Israel, where she was a champion of everything.”

A chorus of Jewish leaders throughout the United States and Israel expressed shock and sadness at news of Bronfman’s untimely passing, lamenting the hole they said her death would leave in the Jewish and philanthropic communities worldwide.

Born in London to a Scottish father and a mother from New York, Bronfman and her husband — the billionaire businessman and philanthropist Charles Bronfman — maintained residences in New York, Florida and Jerusalem. They spent about three months of each year in Israel and in 2002 were awarded honorary Jerusalem citizenship.

In an interview in Ha’aretz last summer, Bronfman, known widely by her nickname, Andy, said: “I feel like the Wandering Jew.”

Avraham Infeld, president of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, first met Bronfman when she was a young woman in England and he was an emissary there for the Jewish Agency for Israel. “She in every way was a symbol of life,” he said.

Twenty years ago, the Bronfmans founded Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. The foundation has supported numerous programs and initiatives aimed at strengthening Jewish life, in addition to programs not related to the Jewish community — from projects at Hebrew University and the Israel Museum to the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and the Foundation for Excellence in the Arts.

Perhaps the organization’s boldest and best-known project has been birthright israel, which the Bronfmans helped co-found.

Bronfman was also a great patron of the arts and worked to establish a nexus between her concern for Israel and her artistic pursuits.

Tourism to Israel dropped at the height of the intifada, and this drop brought with it a sharp decline in revenue for Israeli artists who had been largely dependent on tourist dollars to earn a living.

So in 2003, Bronfman founded the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts, which has helped expose Israeli artists to North American galleries and collectors and educate North Americans about decorative arts in Israel.

Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Bronfman Philanthropies, said this project was emblematic of Bronfman’s philanthropic modus operandi.

“Outside her immense passion for her family was a vigor and a deep personal connection to Israel, to the arts and to young people — and to connecting the three as often as possible to her philanthropy.”

Bronfman’s other initiatives included 21/64, which helps philanthropists plan their giving; and Reboot, which nurtures young Jewish leaders outside the mainstream of organized Jewish life.

Infeld recalled Bronfman’s hands-on approach to her philanthropy.

“She was always directly involved in what she gave money to,” he said. “She became involved in the issues, and the financial help was only part of what she gave. She truly gave of herself,” he said.

Friends and colleagues described Bronfman as attractive, dignified, vibrant and highly intelligent.

“Andy was one of the smartest and wittiest persons I have met,” said Amir Shaviv, assistant executive vice president at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, who worked with Bronfman, a JDC board member, on a committee devoted to rescuing and providing for the security of Jews around the world.

A memorial ceremony was scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25 at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan. Burial was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27 in Jerusalem.