Andrea (Andy) Bronfman was born in London in 1945. The daughter of leading Zionist philanthropists, Andrea devoted much of her life to furthering the commitment to Jewish identity, community and meaning that she inherited from her parents, Hyam and Doris Morrison.
Andrea left England for Canada following her marriage in 1969 to David Cohen, a Canadian manufacturer. As a young wife and mother of 3, Andrea's commitment to human rights and fundamental freedom led her to found the "Group of 35"—Montreal Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. The "35s" played an active role in alerting both the Canadian government and the public at large to the plight of Soviet Jewry.
For more than 20 years, since that first visit to wintry Montreal, the three of us, Charles, Andy and I, along with many wonderful colleagues over the years, have been running together. And throughout these years, Andi and I developed a special and unusual friendship.
The fit was quite unlikely. We didn't come from the same neighborhood and hadn't attended the same schools. And yet the fit worked. Why? The ground, the base line, was a meeting of values and ideals which transcended differences in background and style. Andy became a dominant force in my life (and in the lives of others) first because of what drove her—a desire to help people. The circles included first her family, then friends, then the tribe, whose center was in Israel, and finally, others who were victimized.
Whatever the particular project—this woman pushed on. Whether it was the Guide Dogs for the Blind, the children of Jerusalem who would benefit from this park or that zoo, and most recently, the passion for exposing Israeli excellence in the decorative arts to international audiences. Her zeal for young people—Birthright groups, Reboot young adults, children in enrichment programs in Israeli schools whether in Beit Shemesh or Sakhnin, was overwhelming.
I admired Andy for her spunk and determination. We connected because of concern, activism, passion and vibrancy. We met around the macro-vision, and she pushed me hard on the details. Her eyes were on both levels, a rare and productive combination.
Her demands were tough to meet, but they were part of the package. How many times did she come into the foundation kitchen and turn it upside down by herself, weeding out the dishes she didn't like and reorganizing the closets. She didn't have the patience to wait for me, and knew that this matter didn't really interest me.
How many notes did she send with exclamation points at the end of each sentence indicating how to plan a trip to absolute perfection, and knowing I was not a perfectionist. This last Sunday I sent her the formulation of the letter of rejection for those who did not win the Andy Prize, expecting a long ping-pong exchange until we reached the precise wording she liked.
Andy was at her peak in the last year. She thrived in her work with Israeli crafts people, and she infected others with her enthusiasm. She was running faster than ever, squeezing every drop out of each moment and missing none. She had found her own thing, and with characteristic force, moved on.
Beyond each specific project, Andy loved Israel and this was another base of our friendship. She simply loved the land and the vitality of its people without ideology and without nonsense. She wanted to see more and more and deeper and deeper. It wasn't easy for me to keep up with her pace on the tayelet, and I lost her totally on Shabbat walks in the Jerusalem forest, Ein Karem, the Sataf, Nataf, Wadi Kelt. Charles and I often took a short cut home while she charged ahead. Hours and hours, years and years we walked and talked about Israel. She was her most natural and free in this setting.
And when Israel was in trouble, Andy was here. Who else came in the middle of the Gulf War? All the hotels were empty and Andy arrives. Who else welcomed guests on her patio for dinner with the noise of artillery in the background from Beit Jalla and Beit Lehem and the helicopters flying over us in Jerusalem? Who else listened to a David Broze concert over the hills of Jerusalem with a Birthright group, not understanding the words but understanding everything.
Finally, a word about friendship and loyalty. Andy built a defensive wall around her sometimes, which wasn't easy to penetrate. Once inside though, she was as loyal a friend as possible. Then she put her guard down. Again, the small details: She forgot nothing and no one. Little gifts for everyone in the office, special apple juice cup for little Tom Aviad, embroidered towels for babies born to friends in Israel, flowers. And beyond these small signs of friendship, was the deep care.
Two weeks ago Andy and Charles left Israel after a specially packed whirlwind trip. As we parted Andy said again what she always said at our last meeting—I bet you are glad to see us go. Dear, the answer was and is "No."
I part from my friend with a promise to continue what she started and to keep running with her pace in mind.