Benjamin Moses Brodie

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Benjamin Moses Brodie

Birthplace: žiežmariai, Kaišiadorys District Municipality, Kaunas County, Lithuania
Death: 1954 (78-79)
Atlanta, GA (Heart Attack)
Place of Burial: Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Brody and Esther Brody (Brauda)
Husband of Ethel Markel and Jennie Rabinovitz
Father of Helaine Gladys Strauss; Unnamed Brodie; Dorothy Holt; Miriam (Mickey) Eichholtz; Louise Benson and 3 others
Brother of Dr. Jacob George Brody; Miriam Aronson; Private; Private; Private and 1 other

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Benjamin Moses Brodie

The Family Legacy of Helaine Brodie Strauss (1928-2020) JGSLI Lineage: Winter 2020 By Mark E. Strauss

January 28th, 2021 marks the first anniversary of the death of my mother, Helaine Brodie Strauss. Born in Atlanta Georgia, my mother was one of the first women appointed to head a Jewish Y, when she became the founding leader of the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack, in 1977. She nurtured the center for nearly 20 years as its Executive Director, building it from a small office to one of largest JCC’s in the country. Additionally, she raised three children in Wantagh, Long Island, with her husband Alvin Strauss, (1925-1995), an electrical engineer and past president of the Wantagh Public Library.

In addition to her own achievements, my mother came from an accomplished family, and I have written several stories about the family’s history that have appeared in the Jewish Genealogical Journal, AVOTAYNU. In one story, “Larger than Life: The Adventures of Ben Brodie,” which was published in the Winter 2018 issue, I told the story of her father, Benjamin Moses Brodie, who died in 1954. Ben Brodie was legendary for having left Russia on his own at 14 years old; being awarded the Silver Star as the second man to climb San Juan Hill behind Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish American War; serving as a military policeman in the Philippines; joining the police force in Atlanta as the city’s first Jewish policemen; and then becoming a successful businessman and civic leader.

Additionally, my grandfather was married twice and raised six children, in Atlanta. My mother was the only child conceived with his second wife, Ethel Brodie, (nee Markel), a concert pianist, who married my grandfather after Ben’s first wife, Jennie Rabinowitz, was struck by a car, and died, in 1923. By the time my mother was born, Ben was fifty years old, which explains why I can have a grandfather who fought in the Spanish American War.

I started researching my Brodie ancestry in earnest, about ten years ago. I joined genealogy sites, such as Ancestry and JewishGen and began to unravel clues that chronicled their past. I learned that Ben was born in Zezmer Russia (now Ziezmariiai, Lithuania), in 1878. From census records on JewishGen, I learned that Ben’s grandfather, Leiba (son of Movsha) Brouda, was a fisherman in nearby Kietaviskes (now Kapitoniskis, Lituhania), on the Neman River, and according to a family history, shared by a cousin, Ben’s father, Joseph Brody, owned fishing boats and became a “money lender” in Zezmer, before immigrating to Youngstown Ohio with his wife Esther (nee Rousuk) and the rest of the family, in the early 1900’s, and starting a shoe factory. (Although my grandfather used the surname Brodie, his father and the rest of the family spelled the name as Brody.)

However, I was most interested in the story of my grandfather Ben’s involvement in the Spanish American War and the exploits that led to his military honors. From immigration records, I confirmed that Ben came to America in 1892, when he was 14 years old, to live in Indianapolis with his mother’s brother, Louis Wolf (nee Rousuk) and his wife, Jennie Efroymson, who were first cousins and both born in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania. In the late 1800’s, the Wolfs and Efroymsons started several Department Stores, in Indianapolis, and for Ben Brodie’s first few years in America, he worked for his uncle. At six feet tall and 200 pounds, Ben was purported to be a rough and tumble young man, who was always getting into fights, and after a few years in Indianapolis, his uncle encouraged him to join the U.S. Army, as way to Americanize him. Ironically, it was to escape the Russian Imperial Army, which prompted the family to send Ben to America, in the first place. With the country at peace, the army seemed like a safe place to be in November of 1897. Unfortunately, a few months later, the Spanish American War erupted.

As I researched my grandfather’s legacy, I found his obituary from the Atlanta Constitution from the 22 February 1954, which was headlined, “B. M. Brodie, 2nd American to top San Juan Hill, Dies.” The obituary then went on to describe the assault on the “bullet-swept heights” of San Juan Hill in Santiago, Cuba, during the famous charge of July 1, 1898.

“A native of Russia, he (Ben Brodie) was serving with the 16th U.S. Infantry when ordered into action against well-entrenched Spaniards.  As Teddy Roosevelt gave the order to charge, Brodie raced across a small stream at the foot of the hill, and with men falling all about him, reached the top and captured four of the enemy in a blockhouse.  Soon thereafter, he fell victim to a tropical fever, (malaria), and was sent to Ft. McPherson, Ga., to recuperate. Though cited for his action, it was not until April 1942, 44 years after the campaign, that he received his Silver Star.” 

For my mother’s 90th birthday, in 2018, I enlisted the help of a military historian, Arthur Sharp, to learn more about my grandfather’s military history, which was summarized in a book that was presented to her on her birthday, amidst a large gathering of friends and family. Sharp confirmed that Ben Brodie was in the battle for San Juan Hill and was cited for bravery. However, he does not think that my grandfather fought with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. According to recent analysis, historians now think that Roosevelt erroneously and undeservedly claimed credit for the victory at San Juan Hill, when he actually was involved in the assault on nearby Kettle Hill.

Additionally, although it is virtually impossible based on historical accounts to ascertain who the first soldier was on top of San Juan Hill, it is well established that Ben Brodie was among the first. His obituary in the Atlanta Constitution notes that he was “the 2nd American to top San Juan Hill.” Regardless of who was first, second, or anywhere else in line, Sharp asserts that one thing is certain: “The fighting at the blockhouse was savage, and Ben Brodie earned a great deal of gratitude for his actions at San Juan Hill—the day he became a soldier in the truest sense of the word.”

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Benjamin Moses Brodie's Timeline

October 1875
žiežmariai, Kaišiadorys District Municipality, Kaunas County, Lithuania
Atlanta, Fulton County, GA, United States
Atlanta, Fulton County, GA, United States
Atlanta, GA
August 14, 1908
Atlanta, Fulton County, GA, United States
Atlanta, GA
September 17, 1915
Atlanta, Fulton County, GA, United States
March 11, 1926
Atlanta, GA