Hope, Not Fear

A Path to Jewish Renaissance

Edgar M. Bronfman, Beth Zasloff

St. Martin’s Press, October 2010

A distinguished Jewish leader and philanthropist argues for openness and joy to reinvigorate Judaism in America.

After a lifetime of fighting the persecution of Jews, Edgar M. Bronfman has concluded that what North American Jews need now is hope, not fear. Bronfman urges North American Jewry “to build, not fight. We need to celebrate the joy in Judaism, even as we recognize our responsibility to alleviate suffering and to help heal a broken world. We need to understand Judaism as a multifaceted culture as well as a religion, and explore Jewish literature, music and art. We need to understand our tradition of debate and questioning, and invite all to enter a conversation about our central texts, rituals and laws. We need to open our book anew, and re-create a vital Judaism for our time.”

Through a reexamination of important texts and via interviews with some of the leading figures in Judaism today, Bronfman outlines a new agenda for the Jewish community in North America, one that will ensure that Judaism grows and thrives in an open society. He calls for welcome without conditions for intermarried families and disengaged Jews, for a celebration of Jewish diversity, and for openness to innovation and young leadership. Hope, Not Fear is an impassioned plea for all who care about the future of Judaism to cultivate a Jewish practice that is open to the new as it delves into the old, that welcomes many voices, and that reaches out to make the world a better place.

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About the Author

Born in Montreal in 1929 and raised in a proudly Jewish home, Edgar M. Bronfman dedicated his life to Jewish causes. His love for the Jewish people informed his work at The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, named for his father, and dedicated to inspiring a vibrant and joyful Jewish future. Bronfman’s experience as the CEO of Seagram Company Ltd. for more than thirty years, informed his work as the Founding Chairman of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

For many years, Bronfman served as the as President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), where he advocated for the release of the Prisoners of Zion from the USSR and convinced Pope John Paul II that the establishment of a Carmelite convent near Auschwitz would be an affront to Jews worldwide. In 1998, Mr. Bronfman succeeded in winning restitution for Holocaust victims whose assets had been held in Swiss banks. He had also served as President of the World Jewish Restitution Organization, which is devoted to the return of property and wealth owned by Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

For his philanthropic efforts, Bronfman was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor by President Bill Clinton in 1999. He held honorary doctoral degrees from various institutions of higher learning, including Tel Aviv University, McGill University and Williams College.

Mr. Bronfman passed away in New York City in December 2013.

Beth Zasloff is an alumna of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships, and her collaboration with Edgar M. Bronfman has been a dynamic intergenerational partnership. She is a writer and an artist who has read and performed at venues including PS 1 Contemporary Art Center, the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Performance Space 122, and the Museum at Eldridge Street.  She has taught writing at New York University, Johns Hopkins University and in New York City public schools. She has a B.A. in English from Yale University and an M.A. in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University.  She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children, and is working on her first novel.