According to the popular adage, there are no foolish questions. Suzi Brozman, a former staff writer and freelancer for the Atlanta Jewish Times, seemed to perfect the fine art of questioning over the years. Her innovative, if not polished queries challenged even the most scholarly in the Orthodox community, according to those who shared with the AJT memories of the 74-year-old trailblazer who died April 7.
They recalled Brozman for her refreshing candor, provocative questioning, artistic and culinary talents, and most of all, for being “exceptionally intellectually curious.”
Brozman left a legacy that included the Talmud books she donated to her daf yomi, page-a-day Talmud study class; her creative Torah-based kiddush foods; and her stories for the AJT.
As recently as last year she wrote for the AJT about the Orthodox community and Emory University – her educational stomping grounds – and in 2006 she won a first place Simon Rockower Award (aka Jewish Pulitzer) for Jewish journalism.
Rabbi Adam Starr of Congregation Ohr HaTorah recounted how Brozman stood out among women her age for attending study groups dominated by men in Orthodox circles.
“She just could not get enough learning and scholarship. She soaked it up. She had a tremendous mind for it and an amazing memory. She was able to recall material that was difficult at that depth of study.”
This from a woman who developed a love of Jewish learning later in life, having grown up outside religious circles.
Starr said Brozman was a participant in early morning hashkama Shabbat minyan and prepared a kiddush each week that represented the themes of the Torah portion of the week, engaging the children of the Toco Hills Orthodox synagogue in a creative way. During the 7 1/2 years it takes to complete the daf yomi class, Brozman donated a new set of Koren Talmud texts to the synagogue each time the publisher announced a new version, Starr said. “Now we have a full set for the whole synagogue.”
About 10 years ago, Brozman moved to Israel for a year to study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, which Starr also found unusual for a woman her age.
Perhaps her strongest skill, according to those interviewed for this story, Brozman was known to ask deep, inquisitive and probing questions, sometimes challenging the rabbis in the community to come up with answers they were never asked before. In essence, she kept other perpetual learners and educators on their toes with her free thinking and fresh perspective, they said.
“She was exceptionally intellectually curious,” said Rabbi Michael Broyde, Starr’s predecessor at what was then Young Israel of Toco Hills. “She was not afraid to ask the basic questions, the silly questions. … It allowed her to reexamine items with you in ways that were fascinating,” he said. “She was a new person looking at old problems.”
When Brozman audited Broyde’s law class at Emory University, she stood out as the oldest and only non-law student, he said. Yet she kept up with the studies and shared her personal experience having been through a divorce. In this way, she helped the law students visualize real-life scenarios that went beyond typical classroom lessons, Broyde said.
David Blumenthal, a retired Emory Judaic studies professor, said Brozman was a student in so many Judaic studies classes at Emory “that we had her designated as a guest on campus, which gave her access to parking and also to the library.”
Blumenthal added that “in spite of the fact that she had almost no Jewish background, Suzi dove into Jewish philosophy, Jewish mysticism, midrash, and even Talmud … In each area she undertook, Suzi jumped in and began to swim,” he said. “Not many people have the courage and perseverance to do this.
“Second, Suzi swam aggressively. She posed tough questions, she argued for her point of view, and didn’t let up until she had some kind of answer. Third, Suzi was a hearty feminist, and she fought her way through a lot of rabbinic material, which often discriminates against women in trivial and in serious ways. As a teacher, I often knew what she was going to ask before she asked it.” He concluded, “Suzi Brozman will be missed when we sit down to study.”
- Roni Robbins
- Suzi Brozman
- Atlanta Orthodox Community
- Simon Rockower Award
- Congregation Ohr HaTorah
- rabbi adam starr
- Toco Hills Orthodox synagogue
- Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem
- Rabbi Michael Broyde
- Young Israel of Toco Hills
- David Blumenthal
- Community Spotlight