Michele Braun
Life Member, Hadassah Westchester

For Mother’s Day: Remembering Mom and Making Her Legacy a Blessing

The author and her mother Dottie. Photo courtesy of the author.
The author and her mother Dottie Friedman Braun. Photo courtesy of the author.
The author’s parents: Howard and Dorothy Braun. Photo courtesy of the author.
Looking Back on Three Generations: The author’s grandmother Sarah Smoskovitz Friedman; the author, and the author’s mother Dorothy (Dottie) Friedman Braun. Photo taken in 1955 in San Jose California. Photo courtesy of the author.

Several years ago, when composing brief remarks in memory of my mother to present at my synagogue before reciting the Kaddish (mourner’s prayer), I was surprised to find it much harder to summarize her life than it had been to summarize my father’s four years earlier.

Proud of his role in the world and in our lives, I had said:
My father. Born Etz or Etzhu in Simleul Silvania, Rumania. Immigrated as Isac Braunstein. Died as Howard Braun. Truly an American success story, he served his country and his profession. Loved his family. Sought always to think deeply, to make the world better.

On the surface, my mother’s life was simpler and should have been easier to capture. She was a housewife, mother to three children, grandmother to seven and great-grandmother to the baby she’d met only over FaceTime. My mother dropped out of college, worked until she married and then relocated to accommodate my father’s career. She loved Broadway tunes, folk music and the American Songbook. Sounds like a 1950s and 1960s stereotype. All true. But insufficient.

My mother returned to work briefly to support a business my father had started and then again when her youngest child reached high school. She led the sisterhood at one synagogue and was a founding member, president and periodic service leader at another–years before women were ordained as rabbis. She was Cub Scout den mother, president of her local Hadassah group and, with several other Hadassah women, baked and sold thousands of slices of lokshen kugel (noodle pudding) at a local arts festival to raise money for my youth group’s activities.

My mother read the books assigned to my sister so they could discuss them and sent her to a nascent school for the arts. She made sure all her children and grandchildren could go to college. She gave up a life-long passion for knitting 10 or more years before she died, as her hands became too arthritic, but she bought new needles and yarn when her grandchild was expecting the first of the next generation. After all, new babies require new hand-knitted sweaters.

None of this explains why people in their 20s, 30s and every decade through their 90s attended her funeral and shiva (week of mourning), why she was described as a “big sister” and “stand-in grandmother” or why my classmate from 40 years ago still remembers the Passover Seder he attended at our house. My mother was not a muckety-muck, not a community macher (big shot). She was simply a terrific listener and a caring person.

My mother taught me how to clean, sew, knit, crochet, embroider, balance a checkbook and follow a recipe. One day, she told me, “Anyone can follow a recipe. The real trick is getting all the food on the table at the right time.” A good host makes it look easy, she explained.

My brief tribute:
My mother: Dorothy Braun, born Friedman in Brooklyn, NY. Known as Dotty. Raised on Stone Avenue in the Brownsville section, surrounded by dozens of cousins. Married to neighbor Howard Braun, she inspired friendship and caring for 91 years. Like the biblical Sarah, who helped Abraham prepare a meal for visitors to their tent, she practiced audacious hospitality, welcoming guests and making friends across the generations.

My mother’s memory is a daily blessing to us and to all who knew and loved her.

About the Author
Michele Braun, a life member, Elana Chapter, Hadassah Westchester Region, is a member of the Hadassah Writers' Circle. She provides adult Jewish education classes and consulting services to synagogues and community organizations. Her life-long journey through Jewish learning began in the first-ever nursery school class of Temple Emanuel in San Jose, CA. In some form, she has been a student of Jewish life and texts ever since. Michele earned a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and an MS in Public Management and Policy from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Following a career in public policy with the Federal Reserve System, Michele returned to graduate school, earning an MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew University in 2022 and launching a new career in adult education. Topics of particular interest include Contemporary Torah Study, Jewish Textile Art as Modern Midrash, and making mainstream classrooms more accessible to students with disabilities. Michele and her husband, Norman Bernstein, live in Pound Ridge, NY. Their daughter, S. Judith Bernstein, recently published "In Shadowed Dreams," a novella.
Related Topics
Related Posts