Prominent Jewish family in the Russian Empire. The Brodskiis originated in Brody, Galicia, with the family name Schor; the name Brodskii was taken by Me’ir (Mark) Schor when he moved to the small town of Zlatopol’ in Kiev province in the early nineteenth century. The family had a pedigree of some distinction, as Me’ir’s grandfather had been Rabbi Aleksander Schor, author of a work on Jewish law entitled Simlah ḥadashah. One of Me’ir’s five businessmen sons, Izrail’ (Yisra’el; 1823–1888), began to invest in the nascent sugar industry in the 1840s, eventually leasing, managing, and finally owning his own plants. Izrail’ Brodskii moved his family and base of operations to Kiev in 1876; his refinery was one of the largest factories in the city, and he built a sugar empire that eventually came to control a quarter of the sugar production in the Russian Empire. His brothers Iosif, Solomon, and Isaak also became prominent entrepreneurs in Kiev.
Izrail’ Brodskii’s sons Lazar’ (1848–1904) and Lev (Leon; 1852–1923) expanded and diversified into other areas such as milling; their wheat mill was the largest in Kiev. Both father and sons were noted for their generous philanthropy to Jewish and non-Jewish institutions in Kiev, including grants to help found a Jewish hospital, one of the largest of its kind in the Russian Empire, a magnificent choral synagogue, a trade school for Jewish boys, a bacteriological institute, and a polytechnic institute. They were also noted for their leadership and material contributions after the 1881 and 1905 pogroms in Kiev.
Members of the Brodskii family served in leadership roles in the official communal bodies of Kiev Jewry, as well as on the boards of most of the city’s Jewish voluntary and charitable organizations, and it was common knowledge that almost nothing could be accomplished in the Jewish community of Kiev without the approval and support of the family. Izrail’, Lazar’, and Lev were supporters of the Haskalah movement in that they employed and gave financial assistance to a number of Hebrew writers in Kiev, including Yehudah Leib Levin and Eli‘ezer Shulman. On friendly terms with many high government officials in Kiev, the Brodskii brothers were able to exert influence in Jewish matters, though nationalist Jews tended to see them along the lines of the traditional shtadlonim (intercessors or pleaders), unwilling to push for real change in the empire’s Jewish policies. Members of the family were at times Palestinophiles but never outright supporters of the Zionist movement; the Zionist Organization made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Lev Brodskii to donate funds to purchase the land in front of the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Women of the Brodskii family were also very active in philanthropic activities. Both Khaye (probably Izrail’s wife) and Sara Semenovna, wife of Lazar’, gave large sums for additional wards at the Jewish hospital, and Brodskii women were also involved in the founding of a Jewish maternity clinic in 1901. Together with other Kiev worthies, including the wife of the governor-general of the southwest region, Sara sat on a committee established to aid victims of a Dnieper flood in 1895. Lev’s wife Flora Ignat’eva was also engaged in a number of charitable projects, and Lazar’s daughters Margarita and Klara carried on their father’s commitment to Jewish causes. Klara Brodskaia married Baron Goratsii (Horace) Gintsburg’s son Vladimir in 1898, linking her family to the other Jewish “royal” family of the Russian Empire, the renowned and fabulously wealthy Gintsburgs of Saint Petersburg (and acquiring the title of baroness in the process). Evgeniia Brodskaia, wife of Aleksandr (son of Iosif Brodskii and first cousin to Lazar’ and Lev), sat on the boards of many of Kiev’s Jewish charitable organizations. Aleksandr himself, prominent in the sugar and other industries, notably brewing, also participated in philanthropic activities, but maintained a lower profile in the Kiev Jewish community than his better-known cousins.
Another branch of the Brodskii family became a mainstay of the Odessa Jewish community after Me’ir’s son Avraham (Abram; 1816–1884) settled in that city in 1858, where he served in the city council and as deputy mayor. His business interests included the sugar industry as well as other enterprises.
Lazar’ Brodskii died in 1904, leaving a large sum to the city of Kiev to build a covered market, on condition that income from the market be used to support his favorite charities. Completed in 1912, the market still stands today as a landmark in the center of the city. Most family members fled Russia after the 1917 Revolution, abandoning their holdings, which were subsequently nationalized by the Soviet government.
Alexandra Fanny Brodsky, Smoke Signals: From Eminence to Exile (London and New York, 1997); Michael Hamm, Kiev: A Portrait, 1800–1917 (Princeton, 1993); Yekhezkel Kotik, Mayne zikhroynes, vol. 2 (Warsaw, 1914); Vitalii Kovalinskii, Metsenaty Kieva (Kiev, 1995).