"Andrea Bronfman and The Gift of New York" - Jeffrey Solomon
Excerpts from remarks delivered at the Memorial Service for Andrea Bronfman January 25, 2006, New York, N.Y.
Andy, Charles and I were in Montreal on September 11, experiencing the shock and awe together. By the morning of the 13th, the three of us were talking about what the philanthropies should be doing as a New York domiciled foundation. Charles and I were focussed on contributions and organizations. Andy was focussed on ideas and needs. She asked what will be needed tomorrow rather than today. She kept pressing us to think beyond adding funds to the incredible outpouring of support. She forced us to look at Jewish thought which is so based on affirming life. We talked about helping the healing of families who suffered the ultimate loss. An idea started to percolate. Given New York's rich cultural resources, could we connect those resources to the families who would need help to get beyond their loss? Having learned the power of a gift in the first year of the Birtrhight Israel experience, we had the aha moment: let's arrange for every cultural, sports, and entertainment venue in the tri-state area to make available their services as a gift to families who lost a loved one that dreadful week. (Moses story) could we do this? The Gift of New York was born that day with the fantasy that we would launch it by Christmas and close it down 18 months later. With wonderful colleagues on the board and staff, 12,000 families received countless tickets to Broadway, Off Broadway, baseball, hockey, basketball, the circus and on and on. Museums opened their doors; all grateful that someone had come up with an approach through which they could be helpful to 9/11 families.
Yesterday, on behalf of the family, I called to thank the lead detective for his and others' courtesies on Monday. He told me that he had googled Andy, was amazed by her good works and remembered well the day the widow of a colleague lost at the Trade Center, calling him to say that the Gift of New York arranged for her to attend a Knicks game the previous night with her 12 year old son, who, that very night, smiled for the first time since September 11.
After her first marriage ended in divorce, Andrea married Charles Bronfman, the Canadian-born businessman and philanthropist. Four years later, in 1986, the couple created The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies (ACBP), which over the years has launched a series of major initiatives in Jewish education, Israel and the arts. Notable among them are Reboot, cultivating young Jewish leaders, and Birthright Israel, which brings teens and young adults to visit Israel. A number of ACBP efforts are especially reflective of Andrea's personal vision. Prominent among these is AIDA: The Association for Israel's Decorative Arts, which brings the work of Israeli artists to North American galleries and collectors and educates North Americans about decorative arts in Israel. Andrea also gave life to The Gift of New York which benefited the families of 9/11 vicitims and is described in more detail below.
In May of 2000, Andrea was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy, Honoris Causa, from Tel Aviv University and in 2003 she and her husband, Charles, were named honorary citizens of Jerusalem, the first North American Jews and the first couple to receive this historic honor.