Claire Bruell, writer and researcher, was born in Auckland 1947 and continues to serve the New Zealand Jewish community through her efforts on the Auckland Maon Trust and in ongoing research and writing into European Jewish heritage.
Claire Bruell's parents, Frank and Alice Briess, left their home in Olomouc, Czechoslovakia on 13 March 1939. After several months in London they arrived in Auckland in October 1939 where they went farming in what is now suburban Massey. They had never before farmed but loved their new outdoor lives until Japan’s entry into the war meant the regulations governing aliens changed, and they were forced to sell the farm and move into Auckland city. Here they worked at various business ventures, founding several companies that traded in food and food products such as European style sausages and small goods. Their companies were Newton Meat Company Ltd, Premier Distributors and Manufacturers Ltd and Metzlers Continental Sausages and they supplied herbs and spices to supermarkets under the brand name “Gourmette”. For some years the business supplied the community with kosher food and Frank was a founding member of B’nai Brith.
Claire completed her schooling at St Cuthberts College and went on to the University of Auckland where she pursued her interests in history and languages, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Later she worked in law firms, completing qualifications as a Legal Executive. After some years overseas, she married Peter Bruell in 1973 and they have two sons, Ezra and Anton. Ezra is married with a daughter, living in Melbourne and Anton lives with his wife in Auckland. The family joined Beth Shalom, the Progressive Synagogue in the early 1990s and have been active members there; Claire and Peter both having served on the Board of the synagogue and in many other roles and subcommittees. Both Claire and Peter’s parents were Holocaust survivors whose families came from the former areas of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Claire has been active in Jewish genealogy, researching survivor's histories and writing articles from time to time. She continues her research in this field. In 1993/4 the Jewish Oral History group was formed, initially to interview Holocaust survivors who came to Auckland. Claire has been active in interviewing survivors and other community members since the inception of the group and together with Freda Narev, looks after the administration of what has become a larger community resource than was ever envisaged.
About the same time Claire was appointed to the Auckland Maon Trust, a community trust that provides educational and recreational facilities for Jewish youth. In 2007 the Trust took a long term lease of a property in Epsom behind the synagogue at 180 Manukau Rd and completely renovated what had been a run down residential property, into a purpose designed home for Habonim.
Image above header: Photograph reproduced here with permission from Claire Bruell. Photography by Stephen Robinson. © JoM
Download Claire Bruell’s chapter on Jewish Genealogy Research titled ‘New Zealand’, published in Part IV: Researching Country of Ancestry, for the Avotaynu Guide to Jewish Genealogy, or read online at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/guide.htm