Perla Brandriss, Holocaust survivor and rebbetzin, died on Dec. 6. She was born in 1921 in Stopnica, Poland. Her father, Yitzhak Meir, and his family settled in Lille, where Yitzhak Meir – in addition to being a shochet – served as the rabbinic leader of the Eastern European Jews in the city. There being no Jewish day school in Lille, Perla attended the French public schools, skipping one day a week every Saturday, while educated Jewishly by her parents.
Her parents, and their younger children, Yisrael and Sarah, were deported to Auschwitz in 1942. Another brother, Leon, was shot by the Germans in Vichy France. Perla’s oldest brother, Yoel, escaped with his wife through Portugal, and Perla and siblings Helene and Avraham were saved by the French resistance. Perla (under the identity, “Jeanne DuBus”) and Helene posed as nursing students at a hospital for tubercular children in the town of Trelon. Avraham rejoined them later. After the war, they learned that they were among many other Jewish youngsters saved at Trelon by its Catholic directress, Mme. Rousseau, who was subsequently recognized by Yad VaShem as a Righteous Gentile.
Returning after the war to Lille, where she worked in a law office, Perla met Rabbi Joseph Brandriss, who had been captured in French uniform (as a chaplain) and survived as an inmate in a German prisoner-of-war camp.
The young couple moved to the U.S. in 1947, with the rabbi traveling first to seek out a livelihood and Perla coming shortly thereafter, pregnant during the voyage with Tobie (named for her mother). In Sudbury, Ontario, Rabbi Brandriss took his first rabbinical post.
Subsequently, they served congregations in Wausau, Wis.; Beacon, N.Y.; and Austin, Texas.
In 1955, the family moved to Silver Spring, where Rabbi Brandriss became the spiritual leader of the young, suburban Har Tzeon Congregation.
Perla was Rabbi Brandriss’ adviser, consultant and enabler, the sounding board (and typist) for his sermons, full partner and constant companion in visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved, and sharing in the simchot of the Har Tzeon family and the milestones of the shul’s growth.
At the rabbi’s untimely passing in 1975, Perla could have been devastated. But ever the woman of great faith, she started life anew yet again. She built up a job she took at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater Washington to become the head of teacher placement for all the synagogue schools in the metropolitan area and registrar of the College of Jewish Studies. She is an honored member of the Har Tzeon sisterhood, in addition to being a part of Amit Women and other Jewish and Zionist organizations.
In addition, she was a constant visitor of the sick at the area’s hospitals and bringer of good cheer to the residents of the Hebrew Home and other institutions, and years ago was honored for what was then 25 years of volunteer work. Until it was no longer possible, she continued to be a “driver” – always taking her friends shopping and other places, and responding at a moment’s notice to help anyone who needed to get somewhere.
Perla is a beloved role model and matriarch of a large family, bli ayin hara, of six children, 23 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren in the United States and Israel, as well as of generations of her brother’s and sister’s children in countries across the world.