Saidye Bronfman great lady of Montreal

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 21st Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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Saidye Bronfman was a great activist for Jewish culture in Montreal. She is remembered for her generosity and sense of community.

Saidye and her husband Samuel Bronfman were great philanthropists

Our last series was about the three Eastern female Nobel Peace Winners for 2011. This next topic will focus closer to home and on one of Montreal’s great ladies of social justice, Saidye Bronfman.

Saidye Bronfman was born to Jewish emigrant parents. The Bronfmans’ are one of the most well known Jewish families in North America and definitely in Montreal where they spent most of their lives.

Both Saidye and her husband Samuel Bronfman were great philanthropists. At they beginning of World War ll, the Bronfmans’ and another donor, donated HMCS Montreal II, to the Royal Canadian Navy.

One of Montreal’s leading Red Cross Workers back in 1943, suggested that Jewish women should be kept apart from their gentile counterparts and so Saidye Bronfman created the Jewish Branch of the Quebec Provincial Division of the Canadian Red Cross Society. As dedicated as she was to her own people, it did not stop her from being a patriotic Canadian.

Whether or not the separation of Jewish women from Christian Women was racially motivated or considered a cultural plus for the individual communities, King George VI of Britain recognized Saidye and her husband for their war efforts
. Some people say the award that was given to them was really for Saidye as Samuel still carried the disdain of selling bootleg liquor (not illegal in Canada but illegal in the USA during prohibition). Samuel was a philanthropist himself before his passing in 1971. Nevertheless they both given and deserved the order of the British Empire.

The legacy lived on with Saidye as the matriarch of Montreal Jewry.

Awards and Medals

There is no doubt that Saidye was the pillar of Montreal Jewish Society. She was a great supporter and benefactor for Jewish American women as well. She gave her name, her financial and social support to Jewish women across our beautiful countries.

Many Jewish Organizations were started up or supported by Saidye Bronfman such as:

  • Allied Jewish Community Services of Montreal - Honorary President
  • The the National Council of Jewish Women - Vice President
  • The National Council of Jewish Women - Life member and Vice President
  • The Priscilla Rosner Chapter of Hadassah-wizo - Honorary patron
  • The Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation - Honorary patron
  • The Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Montreal - Member of the advisory board
  • The Jewish Federation of New York - Member of the committee
  • The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation - President

  • Other organizations that Saidye Bronfman supported:

  • Save the Children’s Fund - Honorary Vice President and founding committee member
  • ’Hopital Sainte-Justine and the Fondation Justine-Lacoste-Beaubien - Life Governor
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra - President of the Ladies Committee
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York - Member of the International Council
  • New York Philharmonic Society - Womens Committee, executive Committee

  • Awards and Medals

  • 1934 - officer of the Order of the British Empire -- the OBE
  • 1968 - Nominated First Woman of the Year by Israel State Bonds
  • 1974 - Presented the Prime Minister's Medal for her service in the cause of Israel's development by President Golda Meir

Sweet but tough as nails

Montreal lost a great woman when Saidye Bronfman passed away

She began her great work with the “Winnipeg Jewish Orphans' Home, the Women's Division of Montreal's Combined Jewish Appeal, ORT, National Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah-WIZO of Canada, Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation and Save the Children Fund. Until her death, Bronfman was honorary president of Montreal's Jewish federation, Federation CJA, as well as honorary president of the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation.”

Saidye Bronfman died in July 1995. She was a remarkable woman and model for all women whether Jewish or Christian alike. All women everywhere can look up to her

There were over 2,000 mourners at her funeral service either inside or outside the Saidye Bronfman Centre, which she herself had donated to the community in 1968. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien was present along with Canadian ambassador to Israel.

David Berger was the Montreal Member of Parliament for St. Henri, Westmount riding where I resided at the time prior to his new appointment.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres sent their condolences.

Saidye Bronfman’s industrious personality, sense of work ethic and philanthropy lives on through her children. “Four children followed, all of whom became prominent and respected players on the Jewish and international scenes. Bronfman's children are:
Edgar Miles Bronfman, chairman of Seagram Company Ltd. and president of the World Jewish Congress;

Charles Rosner Bronfman, co-chairman of Seagram's and founder-president of the Montreal-based CRB Foundation one of the initiators of the Birthright program for young Jewish adults;

“architect Phyllis Barbara Lambert, founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture;

The late Aileen Minda de Gunzburg, who married a baron.”

Her grandson Charles de Gunzburg, said she was the “unifying force in the family.”
"For us here today, it's like a page of history that's turned, an era that's over."

No truer words were said. Saidye Bronfman was a sweet and sometimes tough as nails woman who knew how to get what she wanted for the community share cared so much about.

Previous link

Saidye Bronfman: Montreal woman with a passion for her community

All photos taken from the public domain

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Bootlegging, Bronfman, Bronfman Family, Bronfman Family Fortune, Prohibition, Saidye, Sam Bronfman, Seagram, Seagram Whiskey, Segal Centre, Whiskey

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar brendamarie
22nd Oct 2015 (#)

wow, what an outstanding lady!!!

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author avatar Stella Mitchell
22nd Oct 2015 (#)

Oh to be half the woman that this great lady was, would have been an amazing achievement Carol... but alas, I know of very few who have deserved such an accolade as this most worthy of women.
Thank you for this post
God bless you
Stella ><

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
22nd Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, excellent article as always. Saidye Bronfman was truly one of a kind. The world truly lost a good woman when she passed away. I've always wished that I could be wealthy so that I could help people in need. The world needs more people like this!

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author avatar Carol Roach
22nd Oct 2015 (#)

I too always wished I could help if I had more money but even not having any money I have helped and so I am happy

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
3rd Nov 2015 (#)

Interesting post!

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