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Betty Brudnick

Full text from interview with Betty Brudnick in 2010. Highlighted section are included in audio presentation. Audio requires QuickTime player (free download from Apple) or equivalent MP3 player installed with your browser. 

Betty BrudnickBetty Brudnick is a Boston native who graduated from the Prozdor at Hebrew College when it was located in Roxbury, as well as from Boston University and Salem State College.  After meeting Irving Brudnick at a CJP picnic, they married in 1955 and moved to Malden, his home town, where they lived until 1991. 

Mrs. Brudnick was involved with Temple Tifereth Israel, the League of Women Voters, the Tri-City Mental Health Area Board, the Council of Aging as well as many inter-faith groups.  She has three children, eight grandchildren and presently lives in Weston, Massachusetts.

Part 1 – Family History in Malden – Approx. 7 minutes.

 

FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM):     So just to get started, I’m Casey Fishman.  I’m interviewing Betty Brudnick at her home.  It is August 26th.  And today we’re going to be discussing Malden.  So if you can just start off for me by telling me a little bit about your family history, your family background, how they got to this particular community or how you got to Malden since your family isn’t from there.

M:     Do you know first where you’re from in Europe?

BRUDNICK:     Well, I know where my family was from.  My family came from Lithuania.  They settled first in the West End and then in Roxbury.  But my husband’s family came from Russia -- from the Crimean area.  In fact both his mother’s family and his father’s family came from Russia.  They settled in Malden.  My mother-in-law’s entire family were the Werlins.  They were very charitable people who founded a number of synagogues in Malden and who also established Crown Baking Company, which manufactured ice cream cones and straws.  In fact the man who went on to develop Sweetheart straws learned how to make straws at their business.

M:     What was his name?  Kohl?

BRUDNICK:     I don’t know.  I don’t remember.  But I can remember going to visit the straw factory before the business was sold because my husband told me that every young person in his family had to spend a summer working there.  We went in to find two of his uncles working there.  They were baking ice cream cones.  Using this Rube Goldberg-type contraption into which they poured flour.  They themselves were completely covered with flour.  They also had another contraption which they invented to make straws.  As the straws were coming out they would just grab a bunch of them and cut them and put them in a box and say, “well this looks like about 100 and so we’ll sell them.”  It was really a fun place to go to.  Eventually that business was torn down and housing went up in its place.  It was located on Mount Vernon Street in Malden.  A goodly number of my husband’s family lived in Malden.  His mother was one of about eight children.  And I would say seven of them lived in Malden as well as a number of my father-in-law’s family who also lived in Malden.  They were the Brudnicks.

M:     Do you have any pictures of the Crown factory?

BRUDNICK:     No I don’t.  I don’t have any pictures of Crown Baking.  I don’t know that any were ever taken.

FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM):     Do you know what year they arrived in Malden approximately?

BRUDNICK:     I think probably around 1908, 1912.  It was before World War I.  They arrived then.  And so my husband’s father started working as a candy jobber where he would sell candy from the back of his truck.  He had a brother who also lived in Malden whose name was Jacob -- my father-in-law’s name was James.  His brother also had a candy jobber business where he sold from the back of his truck.  My father-in-law’s business was located in the garages behind his home and underneath his home.  And he used that for warehouse and storage.  Eventually his sons built up the business until it covered a good part of the state.  My husband and his brother, who was 11 years his senior, took the business and developed it until it became the largest privately owned pharmaceutical distributor in New England.

M:     What was the name?

BRUDNICK:     James Brudnick Company.  It was named after their father.  And they sold to not only “mama and papa” stores, where they first got started, and pharmacies, but also to hospitals and nursing homes and HMOs.  They became quite successful, starting out from that little candy jobber in the back of his car.  But I guess this was the nature of the immigrant community.  That they just had to excel and continue with what they were doing.  There were quite a few families like that in Malden.  There was the Ruderman family who had a large furniture store.  There was the Kotzen family who also had -- the Kotzens and the Hurvitts, who had another furniture store called Kotzen’s Furniture.  There were the knitting mills.  There was Malden Knitting Mills.  And there were a number of very comfortable merchants in the city who had grown their businesses and were moving on to the next generation.  Unfortunately there are not too many Jews left in Malden today.  The community has changed.

M:     The whole nature of this project is to preserve whatever we can from those experiences.  All along the Mystic River.  Chelsea and Everett and Malden, Medford and Winthrop and Revere.  The Jewish populations don’t exist in those communities anymore but there’s a rich history.

BRUDNICK:     There is.  There were a lot of synagogues in Malden.  There were Orthodox synagogues.  There were Conservative synagogues.  And Temple Tifereth Israel which was originally founded as a Conservative synagogue.  But I think it was 1955 when a new rabbi came to the congregation that he indicated that he would be happy serving there only if they became a Reform congregation.  And so Max Berman, who was president of the temple at the time, spoke with the board and with the congregation suggesting they become a Reform temple.  But it was a very unique temple in the sense that it incorporated a lot of Conservative traditions because so many of its membership had one foot in the Conservative world and one in the Reform.  And so it was unique in its way since many Reform temples in the greater Boston area were then quite classical Reform.  And yet this congregation prayed in Hebrew, still wore yarmulkes and tallises and kept a lot of the old traditions, which I notice is happening to a lot of Reform temples today.  That they have --

M:     Shir Tikvah.

BRUDNICK:     Yes. They’ve gone back to some of these traditions.  So that was an interesting time.  The school system when my husband went to school in Malden was an excellent school system.  I think Malden High was equated almost as good as Boston Latin at the time.  But then the school system changed as many things have changed.  There were some very successful graduates of Malden High who went on to make their mark in the world in education and business and medicine.  There were many successful Jewish doctors who were connected with Malden Hospital at the time.  And attorneys as well.

 

End of Part 1.... continue to Part 2

 

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