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Anew arts award named after Andrea Bronfman, the late wife of Canadian Seagram heir Charles Bronfman, will be given out for the first time today to an Israeli decorative artist.

Charles Bronfman had created the arts prize to mark his wife's 60th birthday in May 2005, eight months before she was struck by a car mere steps from her Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan. The Bronfmans, members of Canada's business and philanthropic aristocracy, had relocated to New York from their native Montreal in 1998.

The day she was killed, there was a voicemail on the Bronfmans' machine from Rivka Saker of Sotheby's in Israel, Charles Bronfman's collaborator in organizing the prize, informing the family that the judges had picked a winner. "My poor wife never heard that. I heard it later," said Bronfman, reached in Israel by phone yesterday.

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The prize is called The Andy (the late philanthropist's nickname) or formally The Andrea M. Bronfman Prize for the Arts. It gives 50,000 Israeli shekels (approximately $12,500) to an Israeli decorative artist working in ceramics, jewellery, textiles or glass, and allows the winner a chance to exhibit a collection of works at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv.

This year's recipient is ceramist Hadas Rosenberg-Nir, who will be honoured at a ceremony in Jerusalem. Israel's new prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is expected to attend.

Andrea Bronfman, a diminutive woman, standing barely five feet tall, was passionate about Israeli causes and is said to have had a certain whimsy in her own artistic tastes.

"I was saying to myself a year and a half ago, 'What can I do to give her something she'd really love for her 60th birthday?' " Charles Bronfman said, adding that he had to use "subterfuge" to organize the prize, because his wife knew his itinerary.

"She knew my calendar everyday. Everything I was doing. So I said to my assistant, 'Look, I'm going to have some meetings about this thing. Now we gotta figure how Andy can never know where I'm going to be when I'm having these meetings.' And the meetings were always held at one woman's [Saker's] apartment," Bronfman said with a laugh.

"One day we were in London with this other woman and her husband and myself. And I said to her, 'By the way, Lovey, I gotta tell you something. This is what I'm doing for your 60th birthday.' And she looked at me and just started crying," Bronfman said, adding that his wife's death hasn't slowed down his philanthropic activities.

"She was really thrilled by it, and it's a terrible shame she's not here. But at least she knew it was going to happen," Bronfman added.

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Andrea Bronfman supported various arts programs, such as the Association of Israel's Decorative Arts, which helped expose Israeli artists to North American dealers and galleries, according to the association's website.

"Whatever Andy was passionate about [will] not only continue, but be enhanced. Because I figure it this way: She was dealt a hand, I was dealt a hand. Her hand played out much too soon. I'm left now with playing her hand and my hand," Bronfman said.

New York remains Bronfman's main residence, he said, although he still has homes in Jerusalem and Palm Beach, Fla.

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