Those We’ve Lost: Attorney Bernice Bricklin

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Bernice Bricklin died from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 93. | Courtesy of Lila Bricklin
The last time that Lila Bricklin communicated with her mother, Bernice Bricklin, she sang to her. The song was familiar to them both.

The Bricklin sisters, Lila, Shoshana and Aliza, were put to sleep as children with Hebrew lullabies chosen for the match between name and lyric. Lila was sent to slumber with “Laila laila, haru’ach goveret”; Shoshana, with “Shnei shoshanim, shnei shoshanim”; and Aliza, with “Hanan v’Aliza utzu basadeh.”

On the night before her mother died at 93 from complications of COVID-19, Lila sang all that she could remember of “Laila, laila.” The aide who held a phone to her mother’s ear told Lila that Bernice Bricklin moved her foot a bit in response. She died the next day, Dec. 19.


Bricklin (née Krauss), was born in Feltonville in 1927. After raising three daughters, Bricklin, a woman of firmly held beliefs with no compunction about voicing them, earned a bachelor’s degree from Beaver College (now Arcadia University) and a law degree from Temple University.

She spent the decade prior to her college education fighting in the trenches of the great social debates, organizing for the National Women’s Political Caucus, lobbying for nuclear disarmament and working for draft counseling groups during the Vietnam War. She marched for the Equal Rights Amendment as well.

Her political vitality was rivaled by her passion for mothering. Bernice Bricklin was an enthusiastic singer and had a knack for cooking fleishig dishes with seemingly milchig ingredients, but that were, in fact, pareve. She taught her daughters how to cook, how to sing and how to do both as Jewish women. More than that, she taught them how their Jewish femininity was connected to their responsibilities to the people around them.

“She had boundless energy,” Lila Bricklin said. “Even well into her 70s, she could outpace you or me.”

After becoming a lawyer, Bricklin brought a new dimension toward her work of creating a more just world. She gave countless hours to organizations like the Freedom Valley Girl Scout Council, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Center for Empowerment of Women and the Green Tree Run Condominium Association. She was a founding member of the Whitemarsh Valley Fair Housing Council, a Democratic committeeperson and an advocate for victims of domestic abuse. Bricklin worked on Sam Katz’s 2003 mayoral campaign and C. Dolores Tucker’s congressional campaign.

She loved Judaism and was a fierce feminist, Shoshana Bricklin said, recalling her mother as a “force of nature.” Her mother was a key player in the earlier days of organized Reconstructionist Judaism, serving on the Federation of Reconstructionist Congregations. It was with Bernice Bricklin’s contribution that the first iteration of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was brought to Broad Street. A lifelong learner, Bricklin had learned with RRC co-founders Mordecai Kaplan and Ira Eiesenstein, and found their vision of the world worth pursuing.

“I’ve tried to hold on to what she passed on to us,” said Shoshana Bricklin, who is an ordained kohelet. “In the fight for justice, particularly.”

Bricklin, suffering from dementia in her later years, lived in Cathedral Village from 2007 until her death.

Bricklin is survived by her daughters, Shoshana (Bert), Lila and Aliza (Andy), and four grandchildren. She was predeceased by longtime companion Cy Keller.

jbernstein@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740

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