Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remembering Edgar Bronfman at a memorial in New York City on January 28, 2014. (Courtesy of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke last night at a well-attended memorial service for Edgar M. Bronfman, the Jewish philanthropist who died in December.

“Edgar was a champion of justice and human dignity,” Clinton told the crowd. “Bill and I will always be grateful for his friendship.”

Clinton went on to describe her first encounter with Bronfman, which took place at a political fundraiser in the early 1990s. “We were seated next to each other at the dinner, and I remember he leaned over midway through one speech and whispered a joke in my ear,” Clinton said. “I remember the joke well, I just can’t repeat it,” she added, prompting laughter from the audience.

The Clintons collaborated with Bronfman in the 1990s on Bronfman’s initiative to get Swiss banks to provide restitution to Holocaust survivors. The effort led to a more than $1 billion settlement. Bronfman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton in 1999.

“Bill and I both believed in Edgar and his cause,” said Clinton. “He was never shy of pressing an issue in the face of injustice.”

The friendship between the Clintons and Bronfman went beyond the political realm. During her presentation, Clinton thanked Bronfman for the friendship he had forged with her daughter Chelsea and her husband Marc Mezvinsky.

Clinton closed by summing up Bronfman’s mission: “In forcing the world to face up to an ugly past, we can help shape a more honorable future.”

The evening also included a video presentation featuring Israeli President Shimon Peres, who praised the late Bronfman and thanked him for his persistence in the face of adversity.

Following Clinton’s remarks, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., said his father undoubtedly regretted not living long enough to help Clinton with her “future plans,” hinting heavily at the 2016 presidential race.

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