The announcement of the new foundation caused a stir of excitement. Not only was a prominent Canadian, already known for his generosity, establishing a formal vehicle for his giving, one with a significant endowment, he was making a strong statement of his personal values. Unlike many Canadian foundations whose charters spoke to general charitable causes, The CRB Foundation announced two specific goals: to enhance Canadianism and to strengthen the unity of the Jewish people.
In its first years, the foundation experimented with how best to give life to its goal of ‘enhancing Canadianism’ by supporting projects that offered insight into the stories and experience of Canada. From the outset, the emphasis was on education, with an approach that encompassed a broad range of initiatives, from support to research, to film and television, and in-school programs, with target populations ranging from middle-school students to film makers and producers and academic researchers.
In 1990 the Foundation identified education as the key to overcoming socio-economic disparity in Israel and the path to equal opportunity. Project Involvement lengthens the hours of elementary school and kindergarten and introduces cultural enrichment subjects to the basic curriculum. These are designed to supplement the core curriculum, to expose all children to the experiences of enrichment, and to use informal and active educational techniques.
The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada was established in 1994. Its mission is to promote a better understanding of Canada through the study of our heritage; develop a clearer understanding of Canada’s social, political and economic future; identify and explore the benefits that a pluralistic society offers; and, support the study of Canada across the country and internationally.
In 1995, following the signing of the Oslo agreements and as one of many efforts to strengthen the peace process on the ground, ACBP joined with the Israel Foreign Ministry and several European funding sources to build joint Israeli-Palestinian projects in several fields.
In 1996 ACBP entered the field of environment in an effort not only to improve environmental conditions in Israel but also to overcome the social gaps built into this area. A study commissioned by ACBP indicated that the most effective use of foundation funds would be in grass-roots environmental groups which were emerging in Israeli civic society. The Foundation began by investing in large and small organizations which were the heart of a nascent environmental movement which eventually thrust environmental issues into mainstream thinking and action. Issues like pollution, open spaces, transportation, energy sources, population growth, beaches, and others became popular causes. Environmental organizations multiplied and attempted to protect the interests of individual and society from violations of basic rights in all areas connected with the quality of the environment in which we live.
The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Chair in Israeli Studies is dedicated to teaching and scholarship on modern Israeli society, broadly understood, and provides leadership in developing this field across disciplines within the University, in building strong ties with Israeli institutions, in communicating research to the public constituency through the annual Andrea and Charles Bronfman Lecture, and in encouraging research in Israel and related study by young scholars. Professor Emanuel Adler, a political scientist, holds the chair.
In 1998 a large grant was made by ACBP to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for an innovative series called Concerts in Jeans, aimed at attracting a younger generation to the concert hall. The series became extremely popular and continues today.
The idea was simple: offer an educational, life-changing, 10-day trip to Israel, free of charge to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18-26. The co-founder of Birthright Israel, Michael Steinhardt, and Charles Bronfman believed then and believe now that this trip, this gift, this investment in its simplicity, is as transformative and visionary as it is pure and generous. The goal is to strengthen each participant’s Jewish identity; to inspire a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel; and to reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide. In short, Birthright Israel seeks no less than to transform young lives and, in the process, shape the course of Jewish history and ensure the continued existence of the Jewish people.
Charles and Andy Bronfman made a major contribution to Hebrew University directed to two subjects dear to their hearts. The first was in 1999 for the Ulpan of the Rothberg International School, where they themselves had studied Hebrew one summer. Two and a half million dollars were directed towards bringing the most modern technology into the language labs, and transforming the methods of teaching Hebrew as a second language. In addition, efforts were made to guarantee the integration of international students into Hebrew University as a whole.