Belle Brodsky, or Ma as she was known to most all of us, was a force of nature. There was something about her spirit that seemed indestructible. We all like to think it was due in part to Baba, Zeyde and Pa looking over her from the world beyond. Most of all, Hashem, looked favorably upon her – in many ways.
Ma was born in November 1925 in Philadelphia, in the historically Jewish neighborhood of Strawberry Mansion. In all honesty, the exact date of her birth sometimes came into question. Ma couldn’t be bothered with minor details like that. We liked to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day so Ma could have the best kind of birthday one could ask for – to be surrounded by family.
Her parents, Samuel and Rose, were known to us as Baba and Zeyde. Baba was born in Kiev, Ukraine and if you asked Zeyde where he was from he would reply “Camden, New Jersey” in a thick Polish accent. They had three children, Irvie, Paulie and our beloved Belle. They grew up of modest means. Zeyde was a butcher and Baba was busy raising their family in a Yiddishe home. Her brother Irvie owned a dry cleaner’s in Ardmore and Paulie was a veteran in the army. Unfortunately, she lost both of her brothers relatively early – in their forties and fifties. Later in their years, Ma took great, loving care of her parents. She brought groceries to them on a daily basis. A symbol of fierce FEIRCE, limitless devotion. This served as a model to her children. When she wasn’t tending to her own parents, Ma was dedicating the rest of her energy to her children, driving twice daily to Annie’s school to bring her whatever she needed. It was important to her to raise a family to its highest potential. Together with her husband, they sent their three children (Andrea, Lisa and Kenneth) through school, religious school, through college and professional degrees. Her children brought her great nachas growing up to serve others as a teacher, dentist and lawyer. These are oversimplified descriptors of their accomplishments.
Her companion in life, was Leo (BDE), and known to us as Pa. He was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1917. He was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. To say he was dealt a difficult set of cards would be an understatement. When Pa saw Ma they were four on a blind double date. Pa ditched his own date because he knew Ma was the person he wanted to be with. Ma’s personality stole the show. It always did.
Her grandchildren Michelle, Paula, Samantha and Jonathan spent many hours on Ma’s couch, our family’s gold standard of comfort and home. Ma had the blessing of being able to meet two greatgrandchildren – Noah and Sophia. At one point in time, all four generations were together in one room.
To sum up Ma’s personality in words would be a disservice to her vibrant neshama. Words are only 2-dimensional and hers were larger than life. Ma was wise. She was intelligent and had profound perspective on what was truly important in life. She showed us what it meant to be generous. Handing out tips to unsuspecting recipients was natural for her. Yiddish phrases would pepper her sentences sometimes ending in a burst of laughter. She could had been a damn comedian and managed to keep herself laughing for 94 years. Her memory was bulletproof. She had essentially had a cult following. If you were to go down the shore with Ma, you would see all kinds of people come up to her and kiss her and hug her. People would look at us and say “I love your mother” with a deep sincerity. She had a magic propensity to make friends, and people instantly became infatuated with her. We all recognized that Ma was remarkable. She was full of life, full of light, positivity and a wittiness that would catch you off guard and crack you up. She was the kind of mother, or grandmother, you would brag about. I sure did. She lived on her own in a condominium. She was 94 years old and did whatever she wanted to do. If you were to speak with her on the phone, the strength in her voice belied her age. My grandmother was a badass, and thus was born one of her nicknames. “Badass.”
In her lifetime, she managed to travel the globe. We have beautiful pictures and hilarious videos of her from Stonehenge, to the black forest in Germany, from lunch in the Effiel tower and the silk road in Turkey. She was an avid cruiser and a gifted loser-of-sunglasses. Who cares!
She had a social calendar many would be envious of with her girls. She liked game nights playing Rummikub and loved the real thing even more – at the Borgata. She radiated comfort and love and care as the matriarch of our family. Her food was the best. Nothing rivaled her brisket and bow ties, her cucumber salad, her spaghetti and meatballs, her stuffed cabbage, or her Italian chicken. The first time she made me a corned beef sandwich with potato salad stuffed inside my world was rocked. That was and still stands as the best sandwich I’ve ever had. Wrapped in tinfoil as a to-go meal, it was prepared with love that was palpable.
We all love Ma to the ends of the earth. She was a daily staple in our lives. We tried to show her the same respect she showed her parents. We would do anything for her and we know she would do anything for us.
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IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLOBAL COALITION FOR ISRAEL