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 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.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): So tell me when you moved to Malden. And describe the places in your neighborhood that were most important to you, like landmarks.
BRUDNICK: OK. I moved to Malden when my husband and I were married in 1955. We moved to this little community that was right on the Everett line called Newman Road. And they were townhouses. Attached townhouses. They all seemed to be filled with young families. It was a wonderful way to get integrated into the community. So we lived there for a number of years. No. We lived there for about two years before we built our home on Corey Road, which was developed by Sam Reinherz. Sam Reinherz was a realtor who was a World War II veteran. He had the foresight to buy up land from various estates. And created this private road and laid it out into ten lots of land. He brought in utilities that were needed. And then sold the land off to people who were interested in building their own homes. We were expecting our second child at the time and decided we couldn’t continue to live in our little townhouse. After looking for homes in other communities we heard of this land that was available on Corey Road. We bought it from Sam and built our home there. And found that the rest of the street consisted mainly of young couples who had lived at Newman Road with their children. So we had a wonderful type of little community there. Our children could go out and play. They’d find friends next door or across the street. We were within walking distance of the school. We were near the Middlesex Fells Reservation where there was a path leading into the woods and boy scout trails, which was called the horse trail, but the children would go up there and follow all the boy scout signs to find their way around. And so it was a bucolic existence while living in a city. And the other advantage was that my husband’s business was located in Malden. He could commute very easily to his work, which consumed a lot of his time. We moved there after we had been married for about two and a half years and became involved with the schools and with the temple. My husband became involved with Malden Red Cross. He was its blood chairman. We were involved with Tri-City Mental Health Area Board. He was one of its founders. I was a president of Tri-City Mental Health. He was a member of the Masonic lodge. Mount Scopus Masonic Lodge. Had you heard of that at all?
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Yes.
BRUDNICK: OK. All right. This was a lodge that was established because the Jews were not accepted in the other Masonic lodge in the city so they formed their own lodge. Eventually during my husband’s tenure blacks were invited to join, which was quite unusual at the time. He had his interests in temple and Mount Scopus and blood drive and the Lions Club. And I had my interest in the League of Women Voters and Hadassah, the temples. School committee. We were very much involved with the community, with the secular community as well as the religious community. Our children grew up there. Have fond memories of it. In fact a number of years ago we decided that it would be a good idea to take our grandchildren on a tour of Malden (there were only five of them at the time). We all got together in a large van and visited historic spots of Malden that they should know about. And my daughter filmed it. We all have a film of it today where we pointed out where my husband was born, where they started their business, where their business grew, where he went to school, etc.
M: We’d like to copy that film.
BRUDNICK: You’d like a copy of that? I’ll have to find it and bring it to you. So there were good memories of growing up there for them. And I don’t know what else you’d like to know.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Can you talk a little bit about your Jewish life and the rituals that you did at home, what kind of -- the synagogue, Hebrew school, holiday rituals? You said you got involved in the synagogue when your kids were young.
BRUDNICK: We got involved with the temple when our children were young. We were involved with the temple for many many years. I was on the school board, school committee. And I became chair of the school committee. My husband -- and I were on the board of directors. And he ultimately became temple president. Our children all went to Hebrew school there and then became involved with the temple youth group. It was called TIFTY, Temple Tifereth Israel Youth Group. It was a Reform youth group that was part of the New England area. Our son went on to become president of the New England region. And our daughter became vice president. And another daughter became treasurer. So they were all involved in the Jewish community as we were. I think we set some good examples for them. We observed all of the holidays. We went to temple.
M: Would you walk to temple on Yom Kippur? Would you walk to temple on Yom Kippur?
BRUDNICK: No. No. It was a Reform temple. It’s a Reform temple.
M: Well, we walked to Temple Shir Tikvah from Sudbury.
BRUDNICK: Oh wow. Do you still do that?
M: No but the kids grew up with walking to Temple Shir Tikvah. It’s about a five-mile trek and it was really special.
BRUDNICK: I bet. I bet.
M: And that was a Reform synagogue.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): What were the High Holidays like at -- or just in Malden in general? Was there a large Jewish population at that time?
BRUDNICK: Oh yes there was because all of the synagogues were -- in fact I think that they -- did they cancel -- no, they still had school on the Jewish holidays. But at some point they finally -- because they had a lot of Jewish schoolteachers there they closed the schools on the Jewish holidays.
M: How many synagogues would you say was in Malden?
BRUDNICK: Let’s see. There was the Orthodox synagogue that had a branch in the West End. So that was two. There were two Conservative temples in Suffolk Square. There’s four. And there was a small little synagogue somewhere off of Mountain Avenue. That was five. And then there was our temple, which was six. So I think there were six temples. One of the rabbis who made a terrific impact on our lives was Judah Miller, who had served at our temple for about eight years. He was there during the time of Martin Luther King and the ’60s when there was a lot of social upheaval and unrest. He had a tremendous social conscience and he inspired many members of the temple to become active in support of many different social movements. He went on to Rochester after leaving us and passed away. There may even be something about him in the information that you have there. We went to temple. We observed the holidays. We invited guests for our holidays. When our children were older they invited their college friends to come and observe seder with us or the High Holidays. And it was good. It was good.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Was there ever any tension between Jews and non-Jews in Malden when your kids were growing up or when you first moved there?
BRUDNICK: I’m sure there was. I’m sure there was. I think there was even more tension when my husband was growing up. Because he would talk about being attacked by groups of Irish kids or there were various sections of the city where Irish lived, where Italians lived. There was even a section of the city where a number of Germans lived in Maplewood Square.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): What was the Jewish section?
BRUDNICK: The Jewish section originally was Suffolk Square. Then a number of Jews moved to the Mountain Avenue area and then we and some other groundbreakers moved to the West End which had been the Yankee area. We were basically in three different parts of the city.
M: I have an aunt who still lives in Malden. Her name is Irene Greenberg.
BRUDNICK: Do you know where she lived?
M: The street? No. She lived there for a very long time.
BRUDNICK: But I’m sure there was tension. I don’t think my children experienced a great deal of it. But in the earlier years I’m sure there was.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): What about Jewish businesses? Were there kosher butchers, bakeries?
BRUDNICK: There were kosher butchers in Suffolk Square. There were kosher delis in Suffolk Square. There were some bakeries in the area near Judson Square, which was closer to Suffolk Square. And a lot of Jewish businesses in Malden Square. There were shoe stores, there were jewelry stores.
BRUDNICK: Drugstores. All over the city. Most of the pharmacists in the city were Jews. There were a lot of Jewish doctors. A number of Jewish lawyers, Jewish dentists. There were some industries that were Jewish. Converse Rubber was there.
M: Converse Rubber was in Chelsea.
BRUDNICK: Well, the Stones I think owned Converse Rubber. And they were in Malden for many years until they moved further north up to Lawrence.
M: Stones you say. What were the first name --
BRUDNICK: I think Stones. I think the Stones. So there was Converse Rubber. There was another company that made seat covers. There was a tire company. Good size tire company. All along Eastern Avenue, which seemed to be the industrial strip.
M: I know where that is.
BRUDNICK: I don’t recall that there were any Jewish restaurants or restaurants owned by Jews. But there were a goodly number of industries that were owned by Jews.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): What about your leisure time? How did you and your husband spend your time when you weren’t working? What did your kids do after school, in the summers? If you can remember. If not --
BRUDNICK: Oh dear. My kids went to camp. They went to camp. We would take vacations down the Cape.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): What about when your husband was growing up? Do you know anything about if his parents did anything in their leisure time?
BRUDNICK: No they didn’t. They didn’t. They were very hardworking immigrants.
M: Did your family have a cousin club?
BRUDNICK: Yes they had a cousins club. How did you know that?
M: Because my family had cousin --
BRUDNICK: They had a very large cousins club. It was the Werlin cousins club. And I think there were about 55 or 60 members who would try to meet once a month. At one time some of us drew up a family tree but I don’t know what happened to it. In fact I still hear from -- well, I was in Malden a few months ago for a funeral of a former neighbor. And some of my husband’s cousins were there at the funeral too. But we did have a large cousins club. Werlin family club.
M: Times have changed. I don’t know for the better either.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): So how long did you stay in Malden? When did you move away from that neighborhood?
BRUDNICK: We moved away from Malden in 1991.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): And how did you see the neighborhood change over those years that you lived there?
BRUDNICK: Well, my neighborhood didn’t change but the rest of the city did change. Malden Square changed. There wasn’t even a bookstore left in town. People moved away.
M: You were there for 35 years. It’s a long time.
BRUDNICK: I know, but towards the last ten years or so people moved away. They were moving out towards Swampscott, Saugus, Melrose, Peabody.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): And what about the Jewish community? How did you see that community change over the years?
BRUDNICK: It shrunk. It’s practically nonexistent now. There are members of Tifereth Israel and I think membership there is less than 100. Even so the membership do not all live in Malden. They come because they have emotional ties and connections to it.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Do you still go back there?
BRUDNICK: Not any longer, no, no, I don’t go back any longer. I haven’t gone. After my husband passed away I didn’t go back, except for recently returning for the funeral of a friend.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Did your husband ever talk about the differences? He grew up there and then he saw his children grow up there. Just differences in the community in terms of school or social --
BRUDNICK: Oh well schools have deteriorated. He felt the schools had deteriorated from the time that he had been there. I think he felt that socially people got along better than they did when he was a youngster there because there would be fights all the time between different groups of young men and boys. We didn’t see that happening with our children.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): So there were good relationships between Jewish kids and non-Jewish kids when your kids were growing up.
BRUDNICK: Right. Yes.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Stan, do you have any other questions? Or do you want to elaborate on anything?
M: I think she’s given us a tremendous amount of --
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Is there anything else that you want to add that you feel like I didn’t cover? Do you have any funny family anecdotes? Can you think of anything in particular? If not that’s fine too.
BRUDNICK: No I really can’t.
M: As I listen to you, your story is my story. It really is.
BRUDNICK: I’m sure it is. My family was not connected to Malden in any way. But they knew people from Malden because my parents had a summer cottage out in an area up north called Tewksbury. I think there were a number of families from Malden who would come and summer there. We all had cottages and so we got to know some people from Malden that way. As a matter of fact when I was going out with my husband, my parents decided to check on him, so they called one of their friends who lived across the street from his family to find out who this young man was and who his family was. So I guess that was what you did. I don’t know if people do that today. But that’s what they did.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Your husband’s family was still living in Malden when your kids were growing up?
BRUDNICK: He had a number of cousins there. His mother lived there then. His brother and sister also.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Did you spend holidays with the whole family? Like Passover?
BRUDNICK: Yes. We alternated between the two families. And sometimes we brought the families together.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Were there any interesting customs that you had during holiday meals or who led the seder?
BRUDNICK: Who led the seders? Well, I think my brother-in-law Bernie led the seders. He was 11 years older than my husband. So he led the seders. And then my husband led the seders. But there weren’t any -- the only thing I recall. Sometimes when my children would bring college friends home for the seders we would get only halfway through the seder and never quite finish because we were too busy telling jokes and stories for the last half of the seder. But I’m sure that happened all over the place too. Absolutely.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Do you remember sharing any Jewish rituals with non-Jewish neighbors or the other way around?
BRUDNICK: Yes. We had a number of non-Jewish friends. We had some neighbors. She was Greek and he was Armenian. And one year when we went to Israel on a temple trip we met Ginny and Haig in Israel. They spent time traveling with us. They were introduced to Jewish aspects and Jewish history. We got into the Armenian Quarter to visit their relatives. They shared some of their cultures and stories with us and we shared with them. We had some black friends, African American friends, whose families had lived in the community for a long time. And we were friendly with them. There were other friends that we were friendly with through my connection with the League of Women Voters who were non-Jewish and we shared things with them. We were involved with the resettlement of refugees in the city. We were involved with the resettlement of Laotian refugees, with Russian refugees. And that involved interfaith work. So we were just stretched out across the community that way.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): And can you also talk a little bit about how you and your husband met?
BRUDNICK: Oh. We met at a CJP picnic. I was at the gate welcoming everyone. And getting their entrance fees or whatever they had to pay to come to the picnic. He drove up in his little convertible with the top down. And I met him that day. I started to go out with him, and he proposed to me and then we married. So it was a CJP connection because I had been involved with the young adult division. We had picnics late summer or early fall every year to get our year established so that we could plan our social year and fundraising year. So we had this picnic at Camp Bauercrest. And that was when I met him.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): And did you know when you got married that you were going to move with him to Malden because that’s where his family was and his business?
BRUDNICK: Oh yes. I knew that because his business was located there. We had this nice apartment in the Newman Road area. So I knew I was going to move there. But when I moved there he had so many relatives and I couldn’t remember who they all were. When people would say hello to me I had to respond. Because it could be a relative. I couldn’t shun them and be rude to somebody who said hello to me just because I didn’t know them. So there were a number of relatives that I had to get to know in a relatively short time.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): I just have another question. You mentioned that a new rabbi came to the synagogue and it went from being a Conservative synagogue to a Reform. Were you there for that transition?
BRUDNICK: No. No we joined the temple after that. He was Lou Siegel.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): So by the time you moved there it was already a Reform synagogue. Do you know if that was a smooth transition or how people in the community handled it?
BRUDNICK: I really don’t know. I know that one of the early rabbis at the temple was Rabbi Margolis, for whom everybody had a great deal of respect. And everyone still talked about him. His name might appear in that book The First Jew. But he left quite an impact on the temple in its early years.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): Wonderful. Yeah I think that’s it for now. If there’s anything else you’d like to add -- if not thank you so much.
M: You’ve been very patient. Thank you.
FISHMAN, CASEY (JCAM): I really really appreciate it.
End of Part 2.... Return to Part 1
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